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Where the grass is greener

By: Jim Linsdau Placer Herald/Lincoln News Messenger Sports Editor
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This past weekend was the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in which a couple of the National Football League’s finest former players gave stirring accounts of their rags-to-riches rise to fame. It was hard not to be moved by descriptions of a young boy from the “projects” reaching stardom on the professional gridiron. They also spoke of reaching millionaire status, not uncommon in a multi-billion dollar industry for both players and coaches. Many of us who follow college football are also aware of the salaries coaches make at that level, especially for those at a prestigious Division I school. They labor in million-dollar facilities and travel about the country at the expense of the program, enough to send parents everywhere scrambling to get their kids into high-paying sports positions. But as green as that grass seems to be, life can be as difficult for them as it is for the rest of us. Case in point was an ESPN segment on Florida State University’s new head coach Jimbo Fisher and his family. But it wasn’t about money; it was about his son, Ethan, who had been recently diagnosed with Fanconi anemia. FC, as it is also known, is a rare bone marrow disease that can eventually lead to leukemia; hardly the story that would make one envious of Jim Fisher’s lofty position, nor his financial status. The Fishers have since started a fundraising campaign in a “kwest” to find a cure for this disease. “We had a voice; we had and opportunity to do something on a greater scale,” said Candi Fisher, Jimbo Fisher’s wife, “not only for Ethan, but to help other families whose lives have been affected by this disease.” Anyone interested can find out more about it at kidz1stfund.com. The story also reminded me of one involving a good friend of mine, and a football coach, who lost his son to acute lymphoblastic leukemia. I met Jim Herlehy when he arrived to coach the Foresthill High School Wildfires’ football team the year the school opened. I learned of his son Maxwell’s condition shortly thereafter, and followed the Herlehys on two fronts, football and Maxwell’s progress. As the Wildfires’ football program improved over the years, so did the hope for Maxwell’s full recovery. Unfortunately, this spring, 9-year-old Maxwell lost his seven-year battle, almost six months after the Wildfires played in their first football playoffs. Maxwell’s loss tore a hole in the heart of the Herlehy family, and Jim lost his best friend. Jaime Herlehy, Jim’s wife and Maxwell’s mother, lost her son; Baylor and Sam lost their big brother. We can envy big salaries, and trips to the playoffs, but the full measure of anyone is dealing with a loss no amount of money, or season, could redeem. Sometimes it may seem the grass is greener on the other side, but here it is just grass. My guess it is greenest where Maxwell now plays.