Posted: July 4, 2007 in Miscellaneous

Shaquille O’Neal and I are the same age, but we have a few differences…

  • I have a bank account with some money in it; Shaq is worth a gazillion dollars…
  • I am tall, but next to Shaq I’m a munchkin…
  • I have itty bitty muscles; Shaq has huge, real muscles…
  • I can make several free throws in a row; sadly, Shaq cannot…
  • I am starting to get in shape; Shaq is already there…

I saw Shaq play twice in person. During our senior year, I watched his LSU Tigers fall to my Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville in an overtime thriller. The very next year, his first with the Orlando Magic, I saw him battle Shawn Kemp and the Seattle Supersonics in Orlando. He was an amazing sight to behold both times.

But I was most impressed with him last night on television.

Shaq has a new reality show on ABC called Shaq’s Big Challenge, a show some critics are calling the first worthwhile reality show. In it, he takes six kids who are dangerously overweight, hooks them up with trainers and nutritionists, and in effect, tries to save their lives. This may turn out to be the first television show I won’t want to miss in a long, long time.

Last night, in addition to dealing with the six kids, Shaq and his college coach, Dale Brown, went into a local school to push for mandatory physical education classes. It seems hypocritical for an out-of-shape guy like me to be strongly in favor of this push, but I attribute part of my problem to this very issue.

There was one statement in this segment, however, that was off-base. They dealt with the athletic director of the school district who really, really wanted mandatory physical education, but he made a statement that needs to be addressed: he said that kids could “test out” of mandatory P.E. if they could run a mile in under twenty minutes, do a specified number of pushups, etc. In other words, he simply wanted to force the really bad cases into P.E. class.

Well, this is where I ascend my soapbox.

You see, I was very much in-shape in high school. I played basketball, ran track and cross country, and could have passed any test to opt out of physical education. But what I didn’t learn was that exercise is a life discipline – not simply a sports competition. When I was no longer on a team, trying to win a championship, I lapsed into non-exercise and became the lazy bum that stands before you today. I could have used a real P.E. class to teach me how to develop the “discipline” of exercise for the sake of health.

And Shaq may not know this. It will be interesting to see what happens to him when he hangs up his over-sized NBA sneakers for good.

I’m into my third week of jogging now, and I’m not having fun. But it isn’t about having fun. I could also test out of a Miami P.E. class if the athletic director had his preference; I can not only run a mile in under twenty minutes, I can run a twelve-minute mile (that’s for you, Bruno)!!! But that’s not the point either.

I haven’t been taking care of my body. And in America this 4th of July, a whole lot of us aren’t taking good care of our bodies.

And they are gifts from God.

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