Sunday, February 10, 2008

See America right: video games touch our lives

There's a pitcher in the Major Leagues who throws the gyroball. He's not Japanese and he doesn't play for the Boston Red Sox. He's a California-born Texas resident who pitches for the Rangers and in his spare time coordinates Guitar Hero and Halo tournaments for charity.

If you don't already know who I'm describing, you should. In a sports world where the great athletes and bad role models are too often one and the same, C.J. Wilson should stand out in the crowd. I hear too much about the bad guys, about the Allen Iversons, Albert Belles, and Michael Vicks of sports and not enough about the good guys.

Despite being one of the most accessible baseball players out there (if you shout, "I'm your friend on Myspace!" during batting practice, he promises to sign for you) Wilson is largely unknown outside of the Rangers fanbase. He is veritably sick versus lefties, notching a 1.71 ERA and miniscule 0.69 WHIP against the group in 2007. He collected 12 saves in 14 opportunities after a trade sent Rangers closer Eric Gagne to Boston. A straight edge athlete who attends D.A.R.E. graduations and dishes out baseball advice via his Myspace to curious young ballplayers, Wilson isn't your average Major League southpaw.

He's on a mission to save children with hemophilia from utter boredom; the donations generated from his tournaments help to outfit a video game room for children receiving outpatient treatment at Cook's Children's Hospital. In addition to his charity work, Wilson professes a drug-free lifestyle and recognizes his responsibility as an athlete in the spotlight to be a good role model for kids.

But it's not just young and impressionable minds that need a positive personality to look up to when the airwaves buzz with news of O.J. Simpson's latest antics or Pacman Jones' most recent arrest. The next time you play Guitar Hero or Halo, think about what can be accomplished through those video games with a little extra effort. The next time you scoff at the kid in your ten o'clock class who says he doesn't drink, think about what that could mean to the kid's younger brother, facing the peer pressures of high school for the first time.

Take this as a message brought to you by America's favorite pitcher who admits to throwing a gyroball, "Remember that you affect every person you ever meet, and some you never do."