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Second chances: From ESPN to the clergy

By Andrew Cha

Photo via CNN

The holidays are often the time of year when people from all across the world feel more joyful, compassionate, and forgiving than they usually do. The spirit of the holiday season falls upon everyone, such that they are not only willing to be overly cheerful with the ones they hold most dear, but forgiving and generous to those who have made mistakes in the past. In this celebratory character, The Tattler wishes to highlight the story of one extraordinary individual who seized his opportunity for a second chance.

In just a matter of hours, a standard late shift for ESPN editor Anthony Federico on February 18th, 2012, turned into one of sports journalism’s most infamous moments of recent years. Federico, who had been working for ESPN since 2007, was fired for publishing a headline titled “A Chink in the Armor.” Normally, such a headline would be insignificant; the phrase was one of common use among the sports journalism world, being a perfect idiom to describe an athlete with small, but important weaknesses in his or her game. The story Federico was covering, however, was one regarding Jeremy Lin, who at the time, was basketball’s biggest name.

Immediately, the sports world erupted, noticing what Anthony Federico had not when writing this headline, that the phrase “a chink in the armor,” possessed a racial slur that was of course inappropriate in discussing an Asian American athlete. Having realized his mistake after receiving a storm of hatred across social media, Federico felt a sense of utter devastation: “the first thing I did, was get up from my desk, went to the bathroom, and threw up several times, because I could not believe I was at the center of this controversy that I definitely didn’t mean to insinuate.” In the month that followed, Federico was fired from his job at ESPN, ridiculed by multiple other figures in the sports world, and continued to receive backlash on social media. But what struck him most from this criticism, were the accusations set on his character; he was most “hurt by how people assumed what I was doing in that moment, and assumed really evil things about me.”

This constant state of harsh criticism towards Federico drastically affected his outlook on himself; he describes life during that time period as one of severe depression: “it was a really dark time in my life; I was devastated: couldn’t eat, didn’t want to see anyone, at times I even thought of killing myself.” But it was during this bleak time, that Federico was able to undergo a transformation, and truly find himself. Recalling his life whilst working at ESPN, Federico always remembered that although his job was enjoyable and paid well, he would be falling asleep at night feeling as though something in his heart was missing. Hoping to get rid of this feeling, on his days off, Federico volunteered at a nursing home, where he would make conversation with lonely patients, hoping to brighten their day. But in reality, these kind actions did not stop the restlessness in his heart; instead, it just “made it a thousand times worse. I became consumed with, and passionate for, helping people.”

After being fired from ESPN, Federico continued this devotion towards helping people, realizing that the emotion he felt when being compassionate towards others, was one that he wanted his life to revolve around. From these experiences, he was able to rise out of the dark times that came as a result of his horrible mistake, and undergo a religious transformation that guided his life toward a new direction: priesthood. While Federico initially had his reservations for adopting such a radical change in his life, he realized that the life he would lead as a priest would be one that would not only aid those around him, but also allow him to move forward, stating: “I found that there was a next step, there was hope, and a future in this, where I wasn’t defined by this incidental headline.” Rather than viewing this newfound devotion towards religion as something that would require sacrifices, Federico began to see it as an opportunity for a second chance. He began to see it as a chance to “bring Jesus’ love to every single person in this world who is hurting, lonely, or suffering.”

Now, almost five years later, Federico is in his fifth year out of six of studying to become a Catholic priest at Catholic University in Washington DC. His transformation from a life of depression caused by constant harsh criticism, to one with a conviction for expressing compassion towards others serves as an inspiration for all. As despite all that he has endured, and the mistakes he has made in the past, Federico remains dedicated to his purpose of helping others: “I want to share what I have learned about who I am, and this freedom in being myself, with everyone. I want to be this light for people.”

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