Originally posted July 30, 2012 for IndySportsLegends.com.
“You can do a lot in a lifetime
If you don’t burn out too fast
You can make the most of the distance
First you need endurance
First you’ve got to last”
– Rush, “Marathon”
The Olympics are all about perseverance and inspiration.
Listen to broadcasters talk about how athletes spend constant hours training or practicing, often tuning out anything else so they improve their chances of reaching their ultimate dreams. If there’s an angle to demonstrate that point, especially with the more well-known athletes, broadcasters and sportswriters typically have it covered.
This focus on perseverance isn’t limited to the talking heads at game sites or in TV studios. It’s also in the advertisements.
In some cases, the most inspirational stories come from people you may never see except for two seconds in a 30-second spot. Take Nathan Muehe, a 13-year-old from Olathe, Kan.
Muehe was born without his left hand, but he was drawn to baseball early on and now pitches — with a no-hitter already to his credit. A Kansas City television station’s interview got to the Internet. A commercial producer needing inspiration saw the story, and now Muehe is part of a Nike advertisement featuring people with various impediments, physical and cultural. Like the Saudi women’s soccer team. Like youngsters playing rugby in a nondescript barrio. Like an amputee participating in a marathon.
The ad is called, appropriately, “Find Your Greatness.”
“It was cool,” Muehe said. “I’ve always wanted to be in a major showcase like Nike, so it’s kind of like a dream come true, I guess.”
Of the 60-second spot, Muehe is visible for all of three seconds. In that time, he pitches once and fields a ground ball, whipping the glove off his right hand and tucking it under his left shoulder to make the throw to first. Muehe’s time on camera belies “a lot of ground balls,” while his dexterity only hints at the determination Muehe had to show to even make his teams, let alone star on them.
For baseball fans my age, it takes very little to recall Jim Abbott, the Michigan graduate who pitched “in the bigs” 11 years with a similar disability — and who also set standards with a no-hitter in his MLB career. The two haven’t met, but Muehe has one of Abbott’s baseball cards and he has also read Abbott’s autobiography.
The early teenage years can be tough for anybody, but especially so for somebody with an obvious physical handicap.
“There are some times I’m like that (wishing he had both hands), but you know, other than that I’m just happy with who I am.”
Before the ad, Muehe was already dealing with being an inspiration — a role some people gravitate towards and others shy away from. Muehe has embraced it. Muehe says his family was eating at a restaurant when they spied a one-year-old girl suffering from the same disability. Without pause, Muehe and his father went over and chatted with the family, giving words of encouragement to the girl’s family. The girl’s parents, who had seen the KCTV interview, were floored Muehe would take any time to chat with them. For Muehe and his family, though, it just came naturally with no pretense or inflated ego.
“We just stopped and said hi and got to meet them and stuff. We talked about (the disability) and stuff. They were like, ‘Are you Nate Muehe?’ And I was like, ‘Yep.’ That was pretty cool.”
He is all of 13 years old. He may not realize it yet, but Nathan Muehe has found greatness.
You can YouTube the video by searching for “Nike Olympics 2012″ or #findgreatness.