If you’ll allow me, I want to make a shameless plug for one of the people I most admire in the world of new media.
Daniel Smrokowski is the founder and host of Special Chronicles, a podcast focusing on those with special needs, and those who care about them. Daniel – or @PodmanDan as he known to those in the media community – has been an online friend for many years now, since back before I was co-hosting the Catholic Weekend show. However we never had the opportunity to meet in person until last weekend, when Dan happened to be in DC for a few days, and invited me to attend a Special Olympics Exhibition Basketball Game.
Having never attended a Special Olympics event before, I was unsure what to expect, but the chance of finally getting to meet Dan in person, even if it was completely on the other side of town, involving an early Saturday morning wake-up and having to attend a sporting event besides, meant that I needed to make the effort.
Two things struck me about the event, which I was not expecting. The first was the overwhelming amount of enthusiasm of both those with special needs – the cheerleaders, the players, etc. – and those who came to support them. It is hard to describe the enormous amount of love and encouragement that one felt in the school gym that day, at least for someone who has never attended an event like this before. It was probably the most positive sporting event that I have ever attended, one in which there were no egos, no posturings, only people completely enjoying themselves and each other. The sense of community that one could almost palpably feel, even as an outsider, was truly something.
The second thing that I did not expect was the audience reaction to Dan himself. Much as I suspect he would love the opportunity to do so, Dan does not work in media full-time. Like many talented people who express their creativity in new media, Dan has a day job, and spends his free time giving Special Chronicles and Special Olympics as much of his energy as he can. His is truly a labor of love, so that when I got to see him he was deep at work, uploading images to social media, recording interviews for use in future podcasts, coordinating assistants to help him capture video, and so on.
So when anchor Greta Cruz of our local ABC station introduced Dan at the beginning of the game, along with other notables in attendance, noting that he had come all the way from Chicago to cover it, the audience cheered lustily and long. It was a surreal yet humbling experience, to be seated there on the bleachers with hundreds of other people, and hear everyone cheering for Dan and Special Chronicles. One realizes in these moments that the petty things in life – making snide, if totally valid, comments about Lena Dunham on social media, for example – do not really count for much.
The good that Dan is doing, in speaking up for people who are so often marginalized, ignored, hidden away, or directly targeted by our increasingly selfish society, accomplishes far greater good than any wit or acerbity I may endeavor to bring to your inbox with my scribblings. So even though he did not ask me to do so, I encourage you to check out Dan’s work, and if you or someone you know are so inclined as to give this aspiring journalist a break, please seriously consider my recommendation that you do so. He has achieved and will continue to achieve many great things in his career, I have no doubt.