Teddy Atlas remembers one night he stayed up past his bedtime.
It was 1966 or so. He sat at the kitchen table of his family's home on Staten Island, waiting up for his dad. Young Teddy had fallen asleep, head down on the table, and woke up when his father Theodore walked through the door, after midnight. The boy asked his dad what he'd been doing, and the physician told him he was seeing a patient in the hospital. "Oh, well, that person's going to get better, because you're taking care of him," the boy told his dad. "No, actually, he's not," Dr. Atlas answered, giving his son a gentle dose of of vicious and inevitable reality. "So, why do you stay up so late and see the patient if he's not going to make it?" the boy said. "Because you don't give up on life," Theodore Atlas responded.
Adult Teddy Atlas took that lesson to heart, and fight fans see it in action when he puts himself at risk for an aneurysm as he gets into a ballistic fury after another judge offers up another grotesque scorecard on "Friday Night Fights."
Every two weeks or so, Freddie Roach, Manny Pacquiao's trainer, calls for a national commission to be formed, to clean up the quagmire in the sport. And Theodore Atlas' stubborn devotion to caring, and continuing to soldier on to boost up the fallen, and dispense care and material goods to folks who have been cheated by the inadequate safety net in a society gripped by a hypercapitalistic fervor, is on display annually at the "Teddy" dinner, which unfolds Thursday on Staten Island.
At the dinner, Roach convenes an all-star crew of celebrities, and sells tickets to the gala, which always features a stellar auction. I asked the analyst-trainer the highlight to be from this years' dinner.
Former NBAer Dikembe Motumbo -- "he's very tall," Atlas cracked -- will be present, as will MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who has graciously spotlighted the works of the foundation on his show "Hardball." Former New York Giant Harry Carson is slated to be on the packed dais, as is boxing legend Micky Ward and current pugilists Paul Malignaggi, Marcus Browne, Yuri Foreman and Sadam Ali.
One auction standout Atlas plugged is tickets to this years' Super Bowl, which takes place in our neck of the woods. Giant David Diehl has kindly offered up tix to the forthcoming Giants-Cowboys game, and that will include field passes. Those in the market for a new car might want to pony up $20 for a raffle ticket, or 20, to win a new Ford Mustang donated by Dana Ford Lincoln of Staten Island. Go here to get tickets to the dinner.
Atlas asked that I give props to his ESPN colleagues and former colleagues who will make the drive down from Bristol, including FNF producer Matt Sandulli, anchor Jonathan Coachman, and studio host Todd Grisham. Also, Howie Schwab will be in the house, presumably stumping a person or two.
So, I asked Atlas, what will be the takeaway message on Thursday night? "That room will be about all those people being together and me saying thank you," he said.
Sorry Teddy, I have to correct you. I will be present, and for me it will be about you being a role model of service and providing literally immeasurable aid and comfort to souls most in need of it.
Thank you, and for all those folks who have lost hope and don't know where to turn when insurance companies stomp on their heart, or who get slammed by a natural disaster and don't have the saving to keep them afloat while they rebuild their homes and lives, please, keep up your great work.
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