Joe Roth – a great person

For those of you who stumble upon this blog, I am going to do something different.  I’m not going to write about myself or my firm (at least not directly :)).  I am going to share a non-legal story (the best I can) that transcends the law and focuses on an individual’s journey and courage in life.  Consider this the once every three-years, non-legal, freelance blog post.  Hopefully it has the lasting positive effect on you that it did on me.

                A few weekends ago, while flipping through channels watching football games, I landed on KQED (I’m not ashamed to admit I watch KQED :))  I love watching the Rick Steves’s travel shows and check please! to find great places to eat out in the Bay Area).  On that day in particular, there was a sports story, so that caught my attention.  Then I found out it was about CAL sports, so my interest grew.  Then I found out it was about CAL football, so I had to watch to see what it was all about.  What I was surprised to learn about was the story of Joe Roth, which I regrettably had never really known about even though I should have known about it (and I wish Cal mandated watching his documentary as a condition to my entry to the great school).

                Joe was a former Cal quarterback from 1975-77, before I was even born.  Like me he transferred to Cal from a junior college and was a member of the Cal football team for a moment in time.  Unlike me, he was a Heisman caliber quarterback and true college star athlete.  He overcame melanoma at 19 only to find out just two-years later that he had a spot in his lungs during an x-ray examination.  It later was discovered that cancer that had spread throughout much of his body and he was given a 90-days to live prognosis.  The documentary recaps how he spent most of his final season “struggling” on the playing field, noticeably “off his game,” and people were wondering “what is wrong with this guy?”  He persevered as much as he could, and did not tell his teammates what was “wrong.”  It was not until late in the progression of his cancer that it was made public – even then Joe’s attitude was positive and he insisted on spending his final days at Cal and doing coursework.  His courageous story is now detailed in a documentary by the people who witnessed it firsthand – many of them great sports figures in their own rights: Jack Clark – Cal Rugby coach/legend; Tony Dungy – Pro football coaching legend; Mike White former Cal and Raider coach and, you guessed it, Bay Area sports legend.  Joe Roth’s wonderful family helped to share his story and live through the beautiful struggle.   You can see a link below for more on his story:

                What is absolutely breathtaking about his story to me is that although he was a star athlete, good looking, and an overall fun person everyone who seemed to come across him – from an adversarial standpoint – stated they felt drawn to his kindness and blessed to know him.  He didn’t draw attention to himself.  He tried to be an “ordinary Joe.”  While he could have taken it out on others he never did, which made me think - how many people do I know who are like Joe?  And I answered – not many.  After watching the documentary, I felt blessed to learn about a small piece of him.  That was after filling up a basket of Kleenex tissues.  I can say I’ve never felt more proud to be a Cal bear.

According to the documentary, he treated everyone with respect, was kind, and had a great almost constant smile.  He also was a highly motivated, competitive person, who was never guaranteed anything and never complained.  He worked.  He struggled.  He had a smile.  Unreal.  An example in the documentary shows that even after the fatal diagnosis, he kept playing football and never tried to draw any attention to himself.  When asked by a USC coach visiting him in the hospital how he was doing, he would reply in a positive manner and then asked the coach why he wasn’t out recruiting – in other words always thinking of others and had a great sense of humor.  He is remembered by many as someone who put others first, ahead of himself, even as he was dying.  Wow.

                The story of Joe Roth is a great one.  Those who grew up in the bay area at that time and Cal football fans likely remember him and were touched by him and his story.  I hope this story brings whoever reads it strength, courage, and positivity.