"Most people tiptoe their way through life, hoping they make it safely to death."
― Earl Nightingale
Jim Thorpe is among the 67 athletes that have ever played in both major league baseball and the national football league.
Jim was a Native American who grew up poor in Oklahoma working hard labor and working through racial prejudice.
Jim won a ballroom dancing championship.
Jim lost his twin brother at the age of 9 and both of his parents a few years later.
But today, let’s focus on the time Jim was invited to the 1912 Olympics and had his shoes stolen just hours before his competition. Without missing a beat, he looked through the trash and pulled out two mismatched shoes. The shoes were two different sizes so he wore an extra pair of socks to help even them out. And then he won gold in two of three of his competitions.
The competition he didn’t win? It was javelin. He never competed in javelin other than in the Olympic trials and he didn’t know you were allowed to throw with a running start. He placed second with the silver medal.
In 1913 the Olympic Committee stripped Thorpe of his medals on a technicality. A newspaper reported that Thorpe had earned a modest income playing minor league baseball during his summer breaks. An income playing sports classified him as a professional athlete and rendered him ineligible for the Olympics. His historical performance was erased from the Olympic record books.
Thorpe understood why the medals were taken. In an apology letter he wrote to the United States Olympic authorities he said: “I was not very wise in the ways of the world and did not realize this was wrong.”
Although the world no longer considered him a champion according to the Olympic record books, it did not change what Thorpe knew to be true of himself. “I won ‘em, and I know I won ‘em,” he said.
That also did not stop him from continuing on and making a name for himself. He accomplished much during his career as a professional athlete including playing baseball with the National League championship NY Giants in 1913, playing professional football and winning championships in 1916, 1917, and 1919.
He also played professional basketball.
In 1920, he helped found the American Professional Football Association which evolved into the NFL.
In 1982, after his family and numerous others fought to restore Thorpe’s medals and amateur status, the International Olympic Committee did agree to award replica Gold medals posthumously.
Life isn't always fun.
Sometimes people are cruel.
Sometimes life is relentlessly unfair.
If it wasn't, would your story be interesting?
You don't get to choose what happens to you. But you always get to choose your response.