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Bemoan the problem or embrace the situation?

April 12, 2010
By MIKE MATHISON, sports editor

Sports is a great way for those involved to learn how to deal with adversity.

Adversity comes in all different forms.

Phil Mickelson has gone through a big dose of adversity lately dealing with his wife and mother having breast cancer.

Although those two aren't out of the woods yet, it is reported they are on the road to a full recovery.

Mickelson hit a few shots out of those woods Sunday to fire a second straight 67 to adorn the green jacket for the third time, joining Jimmy Demaret, Gary Player, Nick Faldo, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players with three or more in their closet.

"This has been a special day, something I'll always cherish," Mickelson said. "To come out on top in this tournament is very emotional.

"We've been through a lot and it's been tough. But, to be on the other end and feel this kind of jubilation is incredible."

Mickelson's self-imposed absence from the PGA Tour was on the other end of the spectrum than Tiger's.

Phil was out last year from May 10 to June 14 and then from June 28 to Aug. 9.

He came back to win the Tour Championship and the World Golf Championships.

For Woods to shoot 11-under and be in the hunt after five months off for his stupidity is something no one should be surprised about. He hit some brilliant shots when he had to and stunk it up also.

But, in the end, the week was about Mickelson, regardless of how much Tiger talk is out there.

Lefty was going about his business on Saturday, 7-under for the tournament through 12 holes, when he ripped a driver around the corner on 13, hit a brilliant second shot to about 10 feet and found the center of the cup for an eagle.

He backed that up by holing his second shot on 14 for his second eagle in a row, something that had never been done in Masters history. To keep things going, he hit his third shot on No. 15 to about six inches and Augusta National was going nuts.

Mickelson made brilliant up-and-downs on Nos. 9 and 10 for par, hit a a gutsy tee shot into 12, made the putt for birdie and then hit it out of the pine needles from 205 to 5 feet and two-putted for birdie at 13.

There have been a ton of hugs on the back end of the 18th green at Augusta National and the one Sunday between Phil and Amy tops the list, better than Jack and his son Jackie in 1986 and better than Tiger and his dad a few years ago.

Both of my parents died of cancer. I have been around cancer a lot and it is not fun to be around.

I understand it takes more than just a great attitude to beat cancer. But, I firmly believe a great attitude is a large sugar pill to help beat cancer.

I watched my mom not have one of the best attitude's when she found out about her cancer. She died about eight months after her diagnosis. It didn't help that it took about four months to diagnose her correctly, but, being positive about what lies ahead is far better than bemoaning the road about to be traveled.

I understand going through cancer treatments is not near the top of anyone's to-do list.

But, once the correct diagnosis has been made, what is your choice?

You embrace the situation.

Kristin Andrews embraced the situation.

The former Weir High School student and athlete was diagnosed with two rare forms of leukemia on June 19, 2006, and lost her battle with the disease on Jan. 19, 2007.

I have been going through therapy for a terrible back recently with John Kirlangitis and the staff at Mainstream Physical Therapy.

One of the members of the staff is Joan Andrews, Kristin's mother, and we have had some really good conversations about her journey during those days.

One of the things I have learned from talking with others is that while Kristin was in Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh she would often order more food than she could eat and had that food taken outside to the homeless.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Kristin, just heard a lot about here through a lot of people.

One of the reoccuring themes was that she never complained, never felt sorry for herself, was kind and cared more about others than what she was going through.

Embrace the situation.

It makes life better for you and everyone around you.

When you play sports, you make choices every day at home, in the classroom and in your athletic field.

You choose how hard you want to work, how hard you want to practice, if you want to be a leader, a follower or a pain.

Your choices allow coaches their choices on how to deal with you.

Some athletes make it very easy on coaches. They might get chewed every now and then on some things, but, for the most part, they are easy to deal with.

You then have the athletes who think they are better than they are and working hard, for them, is nothing more than making it to practice on time.

Those are the same people who get their third-period homework done during second period - which means they learned nothing during second period.

Those are the athletes who have chosen their misguided paths and, in turn, have chosen the paths the coaches will take.

You see, if you are a leader, you don't get to loaf through a drill. If you do, you then lead your teammates to do it over and over again until you act like a leader instead of a pain.

If you are a leader, you don't loaf through school.

Colleges see that and will act accordingly.

Weir High senior L.J. Campbell has signed to play basketball at Walsh University.

I first met L.J. as a gangly seventh-grader at Jefferson County Christian School playing junior high basketball. He was very quiet, very polite and a model citizen.

Six years later is still is very quiet, still is very polite and still is a model citizen and will get his college education paid for.

He has worked hard to improve his basketball skills and has also worked hard in the classroom.

This young man, all 6-foot-8 of him, does not get in trouble and is someone you want on your team and in your family.

He walked many miles to the Martin Luther King Recreational Center before he obtained his drivers license.

Campbell was a mediocre shooter from 15-feet-and-out his junior year and spent hours and hours last summer becoming a better shooter. His free throw percentage went up and now is a threat from the 3-point line.

That means hours and hours and hours of shooting.

That also means hours and hours and hours in the weight room.

The young man could have bemoaned the fact he was not a good outside shooter, left that part of his game alone, and only worked on his strengths to feel better about himself.

But, it's not all about him.

It's about his teammates and if he was to be a good one in high school and a better one in college, he had to work on his weaknesses and do it with a great attitude. He had to be open to criticism, embrace it and work on the not-so-good parts of his game.

He could have found a lot of reasons to say no to a lot of coaches. But, he said yes, embraced the situation and it has paid off.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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