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On A.J. Hawk, Charity, and Fandom: A Reminder to Keep Sports in Perspective

With the Easter holiday this weekend and the off-season in full swing, here's a gentle reminder to take a moment to ignore the on-field and business parts of football and remember all the good that players and organizations do for their communities.

As sports fans, we far too often live and die with the result of each game, as if it holds some control over making our lives better. Far too often do we base our happiness or frustration on a free agent signing, or lack thereof, when we do not know the particulars of the situation. Far too often are we focused strictly on the games, the plays on the field, and the roster transactions and we forget or ignore all the good done for the community by the players and the organizations that we lay praise on and complain about each and every day. And as someone who writes about the Green Bay Packers each and every day, I am probably the most guilty of this of anyone here.

Sometimes it's necessary to have a reminder of what's really important in life, and I got a bit of a wake up call a few days ago.

The reason this all is coming to mind is because of Green Bay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk. This is him just before Super Bowl XLV, in early 2011. This was Hawk a year later. In a widely publicized move, Hawk cut his long hair and donated it to the Wigs for Kids charity based in Westlake, Ohio, near Cleveland. The charity raises money and hair to produce wigs for children living with cancer and other conditions. Shortly afterwards, Hawk decided to create his own organization, Hawk's Locks for Kids, to help raise awareness about Wigs for Kids and to raise money and solicit hair donations for the charity.

Well, I was lucky enough to speak with Hawk recently, when he stopped by to visit with my local Packers bar in Columbus, Ohio. Our group raises money for charity each year, and this year we selected Hawk's Locks as the recipient for our efforts. For him to drop by and personally thank the group meant the world to us and gave us all the opportunity to see what a genuine person he is and how much the charity means to him and his family.

Talking with him in that setting made me step back a bit and realize how focused I have been on the business side of the game this off-season and how critical we can be as fans about players' performance on the field. Frankly, this was a deeply personal reminder that while I participate in some charitable events on Sundays during Packer season, I too often forget about that when I am sitting in front of a monitor typing about the latest free-agent signing or criticizing a dropped pass.

In light of this great reminder of the service and charity work done by the players, we have begun planning a charity drive here at Acme Packing Company as well. I can't share any details yet, but know that sometime this summer we will be holding a pledge drive or fundraiser of some sort and will be dedicating the proceeds to a Packer-related charity. We encourage you all to keep this in mind in the weeks and months ahead, and we hope you will be willing to participate when the time comes.

Of course, Hawk is hardly the only Packer who is active in charity work, and many other current and former players deserve recognition (even if they do not ask for it). The Donald Driver Foundation gives scholarships to low-income children and raises money and awareness for homeless families. Aaron Rodgers is active in the MACC fund (Midwest Athletes against Childhood Cancer) and does things like this. James Jones' "Love Jones 4 Kids" foundation helps raise money for needy children in the San Jose and Green Bay areas.

The list can go on and on with individual players dedicating their spare time to the community, but the Packers organization does so as well. The Packers Foundation gave nearly half a million dollars to charity earlier this year. The team also has a variety of other community projects which acknowledge leaders in the community and organize outreach programs. Then don't forget about the NFL as a whole, which has a massive charitable and outreach program across the country and the world.

Even if you cannot or choose not to participate in any charitable endeavors, I urge you: next time a player drops a pass or misses a tackle or the next time the front office makes a move that you disagree with, take a step back and remember some of the good that the player or the team does for the community before taking to your keyboard to express your frustration. The people on the fields and in the front offices are just that: people. Most just want to be involved with a great sport and leave the planet a little better because of their presence on it.

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