Monday, January 12, 2015

An interview with Blessed2Play sports talk show host Ron Meyer

"Like a feather in the wind, I was living a life that was not directed. I reflected on my own life and my battle with Myasthenia Gravis. It reminded me that I am blessed to perform athletically. All athletes are truly blessed2play." - Ron Meyer

Blessed2Play is a weekly sports talk show that is unlike any other. Founder and host Ron Meyer has interviewed famous athletes like All-Pro wide receiver Danny Abramowicz, World Series Champion Sal Bando, and Olympian Kirsten Holum.
Holum was a speed skater at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. She later chose to leave competitive skating and become a Catholic nun. Sister Catherine Mary's faith is the common bond between Meyer's guests. Each has a sports connection and is also Catholic.
I've had the occasion at various stages of my writing career to interview those who interview others. I have found that these individuals are more than strong conversationalists, they also have a deep insight into human psychology.
The true quality of any conversation with another person can be somewhat measured as you are having it. But my interview was recorded. So, I had the opportunity to analyze our conversation as I prepared this feature during digital replays. While doing so, Ron Meyer's depth of intelligence and the sincerity in his character was even more fully recognized.

The Pitch

It took time for Meyer, now 44, to achieve the lasting personal and career success that he has. His life was not always as directed as it is now. Along his path, the idea for Blessed2Play developed.
"I always thought it would be a great opportunity to have a show like this. There wasn't a radio show interviewing Catholic athletes. So, I pitched the idea to Barbara Gaskell who is the General Manager at WILB in July, 2010. She liked it and we began developing the show later in the year," Meyer said.
Blessed2Play, which is produced by Dan Clark, is broadcast live Saturday's at 1130AM (with an encore Saturday at 930pm. A "Best Of" segment also airs Sunday at 1230pm) on WILB 1060 AM in Canton, Ohio. The show can also be accessed through the station website: and through archived podcasts. Listeners can connect with the show by email:
"One of the things that I try to do is put myself in the seat of the listener. I try to draw out the story of the person I'm interviewing. During the first half of the show we talk about their career and in the second half we talk about their faith life."
"When athletes are interviewed, it's often about what they do, not who they are. Our talents don't define who we are, they define what we do. One of the outlets where the athletes get to talk about who they are is on my show. The best witness that we can give is about our faith and our life."

Formative Years

Meyer's father once set a New York state record by scoring 68 points in a high school basketball game. He credits that athletic example and his coaching with helping him to excel in sports at both the high school and college levels. After high school, he played baseball for a nationally ranked Junior College team and for the Manalapan Braves in the Jersey Shore semi-professional baseball league.
After moving to Florida, while working at a hotel resort on the beach, the bright lights of Hollywood shined on him. Meyer was approached about a casting call for a movie. He was intrigued, went to audition, and was chosen for a small part in a major motion picture. It was during the two weeks before shooting was set to begin that an unexpected development changed the course of his life.

Myasthenia Gravis - "Grave Weakness"

The following is an excerpt from "A Journey to Faith" that Meyer wrote for Catholic Men's Quarterly in 2006.
Shortly after receiving this inspiring news my life would hit the proverbial brick wall. Just days before my acting debut a friend recognized my right eye was drooping and made me take notice. I ran to the nearest mirror to confirm this anomaly. A visit to a local eye doctor was in order. The doctor conveyed he believed this to be more serious than an eye ailment and encouraged me to see a neurologist. My plans for motion picture stardom were now stymied and I decided to head back north to seek further medical opinions.
I entered Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY where doctors commenced a battery of tests. The tests confirmed the doctor's suspicions and I was diagnosed w/ Myasthenia Gravis (Grave Weakness in the vernacular) one of the forty muscular dystrophy diseases with severe implications that could change my life.
My world was rocked and overcome with fear and uncertainty. Myasthenia who? Doctors conveyed the condition would likely cause weakness in my limbs and at its' worse stage my breathing, which can result in death. On top of this harsh and frightful news the guys in the white coats disclosed there was no known cure for this disabling condition. During the next two months my conditioned worsened to the point where both eyelids became significantly weaker and drooped so badly it became hard to see. Ordinary activities such as driving, reading, playing sports, and communicating through my eyes became challenging and sometimes impossible.
Depression set in and the fear of the disease progressing further ruled my thoughts every waking moment. One Sunday, needing a peaceful refuge, I decided to visit the local Catholic church after not being there for many years. I walked in and proceeded to take my seat in the pews located on the side of the altar before the start of Mass, a perfect place for a skeptical young man that might have to dash out if need be. I followed the congregation as their bodily postures changed during the progression ofthe liturgy. I looked the part but didn't quite know the reasoning behind the sit and stands.
As the priest commenced the Eucharistic Prayer everyone dropped to their knees, eyes fixed toward the altar. I recalled from my days attending Mass in grammar school that before communion was the time everyone was conscientiously quiet and bells would ring from the altar boys shake. The priest went through the words of consecration and at the elevation of the Sacred Host; Our Lord infused in me a love and belief in his real presence contained but not trapped in the Eucharist. My droopy eyes gained full strength as the host was raised and the scales of unbelief were no longer.
Although my eyes returned to their weakened state after the Mass I recognized for the first time there is a God who loves me and is willing to guide me on a journey to him. These events repeated themselves during the following Sunday's liturgy. This was the start of my pursuit of God or better stated the hound of heaven was on my tail.
My condition was a struggle, although it never progressed as the doctors anticipated, I did feel its sobering effects. Finally, I was regulated on a medicine that alleviated most symptoms and allowed me to function without some of the disease's serious disabling applications. I was able, once again, to pursue my competitive athletic inclinations. (End of excerpt.)
(While the disease did continue to affect his eyes, it never spread to his limbs.)
"The doctors told me that the disease probably would go into my limbs, could eventually affect my breathing, and I could succumb to it. For one month, I was waiting for the inevitable to happen. So, I didn't go to church because of that. I went because it was a peaceful refuge. I would have given myself fully to that life and who knows how it would have turned out. When I chose the alternate path that I did, it led to a solid foundation."
At 21, Meyer moved to Arizona and was put on a medication that allowed him to maintain a fully functioning life and also to achieve significant athletic accomplishments.
He played baseball for two years while attending Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio and was the team MVP in 1993. He played in the US National Singles Championships and the US National Doubles Championships. He also played in the International US Open Racquetball Championships. He won two state divisional racquetball titles in West Virginia and two in Ohio. At the 2011 West Virginia State Racquetball Championships, he and his partner Gary Gross were crowned State Doubles champions.
Beyond sports, he also went on to earn both a Bachelors Degree in Communications from Franciscan University and an MBA from Point Park University, Pittsburgh in 2002.


Meyer was present at the 8th World Youth Day in Denver, 1993. He was inspired by a speaker who was a skier, swimmer, and a competitive kayaker. That man was Karol Wojtyla.
"There were a million people present and Pope John Paul II connected with each one of us. When he would talk, the crowd would hush. He was calling us to something greater and told us that we didn't have to sell out. Be not afraid."
While in Arizona, Meyer was affected by Mother Angelica's shows on the global television network she founded, EWTN. He eventually went to work for the network and has spent the last eleven years as their Mid-Atlantic Regional Marketing Manager.
Meyer is also married with three daughters. He referred to his wife Julie, his daughters Anna, Angelica (who was named after EWTN's founder), and Maria as his gifts from God.

More Than Statistics

"Sports is etched into the fabric of Catholicism throughout history. If you are an athlete, you are called to give your best. When you step onto the field you have to give your all. John Paul II (who was a competitive athlete himself) had the philosophy of self donation, giving oneself to whatever you do. This not only applies to sports, but to other areas of life as well."
"Athletes are under so much pressure today. Everyone says they are making so much money. But, there is also a lot of hardship. Often times reporters have the obligation to learn about the story behind the talent. It is something that the audience wants to absorb."
Meyer cited the ESPN show, Outside the Lines, as one that offers a positive example of how the full picture of an athlete is properly presented.

World Famous Guests

Guests on Blessed2Play have sports backgrounds that are as varied as their personal lives, but common threads are sewn between them all. Recent interviews have included those with:
Rich Donnelly, who was a major league baseball coach for 25 years. He tells a haunting story, called "The Chicken Runs At Midnight", that ties the battle his daughter lost to cancer with the 1997 Florida Marlins World Series victory clinching event.
NFL ALL-Pro wide receiver Danny Abramowicz. He discussed his career, how he overcame alcoholism, and how his current television show "Crossing the Goal", is one that men can connect with.
Three-time World Series Champion Sal Bando, who was captain of the A's and a conduit between legendary owner Charley Finley and his teammates. Father Burke Masters' Mississippi State Bulldog team was ranked number 2 in the United States. He went 6-6 in the Super Regionals game against Florida State. His performance included a grand slam, known as "the shot heard 'round Mississippi ", that vaulted his team into the College World Series. Sister Joan of Arc, a former Notre Dame Women's basketball player. Chris Godfrey, a Super Bowl Champion guard with the 1987 New York Giants.
"The common links between these individuals are faith and the pursuit of virtue. Life is filled with many quagmires. Some of the athletes I've interviewed have been on the other side of the fence. They found out that they were still unfulfilled even though they had money, fame, and glory. They were forced to redirect their lives. They were all searchers and seekers of truth."
Upcoming guests include: Antonio Soave, creator and host of the television show "Soccer Academy", who is also a former All-American high school and professional soccer player. Kerry Fraser, former NHL referee. Pat McCaskey, co-owner of the Chicago Bears. Father Kevin Lixey, who heads the Department of Church and Sport at the Vatican. Diane Holum, mother of the previously referenced Sister Catherine Mary (Kirsten Holum), who won a gold medal at the 1972 Olympics and also mentored Olympian Eric Heiden. Ryan Lefebvre, who is the play-by-play voice of the Kansas City Royals.

"There has been a steady stream of guests, because athletes want to talk about more than just their numbers. It is a blessing for them to play and for me to talk with them," Meyer concluded.

(I hold all copyrights to this article which originally appeared on Yahoo's Voices platform in 2011.)


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