There are an estimated 300 surviving Negro Leagues baseball veterans who played prior to the early 1960s and have been in danger of being forgotten. What started more than five years ago as an exercise in getting autographs for 12-year-old Cam Perron, a white teenager from the Boston area, grew into campaign to chronicle the lost history of these men, and in some cases help them receive the pension they are due. Joined by Perron, now 18, and 75 Negro Leagues vets, host Bryant Gumbel travels to Birmingham, Ala., to learn more at the largest annual gathering of former Negro Leagues players.
With the 2013 NBA draft set for next week, memorable draft moments from the past loom large for many fans. In 2002, the talk centered on Yao Ming, the seven-foot, six-inch center from China, and junior point guard Jay Williams of Duke. The 2002 Naismith National Player of the Year and a 2001 national champion as a Blue Devil, Williams was selected second overall by the Chicago Bulls and considered the heir to Michael Jordan. Following his rookie season, however, a motorcycle mishap left his leg permanently damaged, costing him his career and nearly his life, haunting him for years. Now 31 and an ESPN studio analyst, Williams has emerged from a suicidal fog with new purpose and, remarkably, views his accident as a blessing. In this REAL SPORTS/Sports Illustrated collaboration, Jon Frankel interviews Williams, who talks about the crash on TV for the first time, nearly ten years to the day after the event.
When Iraq war veteran Todd Vance returned home, he faced a battle like never before. Drinking heavily, getting into bar fights and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he devised a plan to help alleviate his mental illness by continuing to fight here at home, but through organized mixed martial arts activities. Vance started an MMA fight club, allowing other veterans confronting similar challenges to let out their aggression and anger in a physically stimulating manner. This innovative technique for battling the PTSD epidemic, which reportedly afflicts more than 250,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, enables dozens of vets to live life again in a rewarding new way. In her first story for REAL SPORTS, Soledad O'Brien travels to San Diego and meets the men of the POW MMA Fight Club at North Park, who have found their own solution to one of the military's biggest problems.
Since the early 1900s, the legendary Flying Wallendas have been famed for performing high-wire acts without a safety net, which have resulted in numerous deaths and debilitating injuries. When Nik Wallenda walked across a section of Niagara Falls on national TV in June 2012, however, the network required him to wear a tether. Millions watched as Wallenda successfully crossed the Falls, but he felt unfulfilled without the element of danger. This Sunday, June 23, he will attempt a more dangerous stunt as he attempts to walk a quarter-mile gap of the Grand Canyon on a steel wire with no tethers or safety nets. REAL SPORTS heads to the Grand Canyon as the 34-year-old daredevil prepares for his record-breaking walk. Frank Deford reports.