Out Here In Left Field

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 9, 2007

I loved Jim Valvano. Even though I am a Duke fan, his passion and his spirit were infectious.

When North Carolina State University won the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship in 1983, I celebrated almost as much as when Duke won in 1991.

Valvano was one of those guys you couldn’t help root for when his team was playing against anyone else but your favorite team.

This morning I woke to the voices of Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg (aka “The Mike and Mike Show” on ESPN2) as they talked about their annual auction which benefits the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

It reminded me yet again how far-reaching Jim Valvano’s life was. Despite his premature death before the age of 50, Jim Valvano continues to have his presence felt through the V Foundation.

Whether you liked Jimmy V or you didn’t, one thing was for sure, you knew he loved life and he loved the game of basketball. He coached and lived with a passion that few of us know.

Valvano was a national championship coach, an award-winning broadcaster and the author of three books. He was a husband, a father and a friend.

None of those in and of themselves could adequately describe what he came to mean to the sports world and indeed to the nation. As Jimmy V battled cancer, he did so with bravery that touched lives. He never gave up and he instilled in everyone he met that they shouldn’t either.

“I want to help every cancer patient I can now,” Valvano said in one of his final interviews. “I don’t know if I can handle that, but it’s the only conceivable good that can come out of this.”

Valvano did just that when he, in partnership with ESPN, created the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

The coach recruited friends and family to lead the fight to eradicate the disease. Among them is Dick Vitale, who has become one of the most outspoken supporters of the V Foundation.

Also among them is Mike Krzyzewski, the Head Basketball Coach at Duke University. Of course as a Duke fan, I love the three-time national champion coach. No matter what success he has had as a coach, I’m just as proud of his service as a member of the Board of Directors of the V Foundation.

There are many other names on the board that sports fans would recognize, including John Saunders, Peggy Fleming Jenkins and Derek Whittenburg.

In just 14 years of existence, the organization has raised more than $70 million and awarded cancer research grants in 37 states and the District of Columbia.

The Foundation has a track record for finding and funding elite young scientists. Between 1994 and 2003, the Foundation awarded 109 grants to promising young researchers.

The V Foundation awards 100 percent of all new direct cash donations and net proceeds of events directly to cancer research and related programs.

While this is a time of economic struggle in our nation, I still believe the work of the V Foundation for Cancer Research should be a priority for anyone who has been touched by this terrible disease.

It is terrible that we lost Jimmy V, but it is wonderful that his legacy lives on more than a decade after his death.

For more information about the V Foundation, visit www.jimmyv.org.

Questions? Comments? Snide remarks? All are welcome.

You can reach me at thadd.white@r-cnews.com or call me at 332-7211.

Be careful out there and be good sports.