By Dave Denniston
Just as most of you, I was devastated to find out that Olympian Eric Namesnik was in a car accident on Saturday that has left him in critical condition. Before Michael Phelps, Eric Vendt and Tom Dolan, there was Eric Namesnik. He personified hard work, class and intensity in and out of the pool. Now we are all praying that he comes out of this with that same fight he had in 1996 when he battled a young talent by the name of Tom Dolan. He is in for the fight of his life, and comfort is found in knowing that he is one of the toughest athletes to ever jump into the water.
I received a double dose of bad news this weekend, as my friend and mentor Jim Jones has been given twenty to thirty days to live. I’ve written about Jim previously. He is the father of Texas butterflier Rob Jones. He has shared goal setting techniques and a positive attitude with everyone from 8 year-olds to superstars like Neil Walker and Bryan Jones. He has been battling terminal lung cancer for over a year.
“Hey Dave,” said Coach Jones. “The doctors told me I have about twenty days left. So apparently it’s not looking good again. I told them that’s what they said over a year ago and then I asked them why they were quitting on me now, the pansies.”
He went on to tell me about all the young kids that he’s mentored who are now swimming well or achieving their dreams. He told all the same jokes he always tells and laughed twice as hard at the punch line, as if it were the first time he’s heard his own joke himself. And he ended the conversation by telling me that his life was great and he couldn’t be happier.
Cancer will take Coach Jones’ life, but it never beat him. Through all of the bad news and the pessimism of the doctors, his attitude and spirit remain intact and unchallenged. Coach Jones personifies hard work, class, intensity and most importantly, optimism.
Of course I pray and hope for Eric Namesnik and his friends and family. As devastating as things are right now, I hope we can find the same spirit Jim Jones embodies and stay optimistic. There will be several positive things to come from this accident. It will take time, patience and an amazing attitude to find them all, but they’re there.
Keep your chins up and your chest high… it’s the only way to see the good things that lay ahead.