What if we embraced what made us unique from an early age? How would our trajectory in life change? How could we alter the world for others? This is exactly what White Sox Announcer Jason Benetti is doing as he fulfills his childhood dream!

We all have a “thing” that makes us, us. Maybe we’re the funniest one in the room, the smartest, the best chef, a great artist or musician. Perhaps you’ve embraced being the tallest, the shortest, or the one with the best hair! Chances are, you spent a lot of your adolescence trying to figure out what made you unique or learning to embrace the qualities that came built-in.

It’s rare that we find what makes us unique early in life, but that wasn’t the case for young Jason Benetti. He knew what made him stand out from the time he was a toddler. Though he was smart, quick-witted, and wanted to be the Chicago White Sox announcer from a young age, what most people first saw in him was his cerebral palsy (CP), a neurological disorder that affects his movement and muscle control.

So, how did he go from the scrappy kid, calling games in his living room for his friends to sitting in the seat of one of his childhood heroes? Well, it’s a story of embracing what makes us unique that we all can thrive from!

Image: a child steps up to the baseball plate ready to swing the bat

Source: Pixabay

“Embrace the fact that you’re weird or strange… That thing that is weird about you is probably the thing that’s most fiery and most cared for deep inside of you. And if you follow that weird thing, you’re probably going to be a pioneer.”
-Jason Benetti, White Sox announcer 1

Finding Himself Behind a Microphone

Jason’s passion for play-by-play started early in life. While playing video games with friends, he would mimic famous sports announcers of the time, calling the games as they played. As an avid sports fan, he and his family would spend nights watching White Sox games or heading to Comisky Park, home of the Chicago White Sox, to see them play live. Before he ever even had a chance to sit behind his first live microphone, he had the announcing bug.

When he finally did get the chance to sit behind the mic, he immediately loved it. The booth was a place where he could “just be whole.”

Nobody was giving him a look or presuming his intelligence because of the way he walked; behind the microphone, “the starting point is exactly where everyone else is.” 2

Now, years later, having finally made it to the booth where his heroes once sat, Jason has some remarkable words of wisdom to share. And for those of us who may not be fully embracing the things that make us unique, there’s a lot to learn.

Here’s Jason Benetti talking about his career and sharing his story in a great piece from CBS Sunday Morning.

If you don’t already tune into CBS Sunday Morning regularly, check your local listings, and tune in every now and again. They do a remarkable job each week celebrating and profiling stories we don’t usually get to hear. And, if you happen to miss an episode, you can check out the CBS site or their YouTube channel to check out a few of the clips from the past week.

 “So many people travel this world and don’t know what’s unique about them. I already have one built-in.” —Jason Benetti

How would we act on a daily basis if we knew the world would embrace us for what makes us unique? What doors would we open for others who face the same hurdles we do?

When we celebrate what makes us unique, we give others permission to do so, too. Our celebration opens up spaces for conversation and deeper understanding.

In a longer interview on ESPN’s That’s What She Said podcast with Sarah Spain (which is incredible and I strongly suggest you check out) Jason was talking about his work and his trajectory to becoming the White Sox announcer and he said this:

“Everybody has a thing, and if we channel our energy to say, ‘Okay but how can I overcome it.’ That’s valuable anyway to everybody.” 4

Jason’s work with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation on the series Awkward Moments is a great example of how he is channeling his energy.

Through his series, he’s helping open up ways we can have a more meaningful dialogue about disability. What do we do if a kid points at a person with a visible disability and asks, “What’s wrong with them?” How do we navigate those awkward moments of asking somebody if they need help?

These are just some of the topics Jason addresses throughout the series, but he is not only addressing the issues of those with CP. Every one of us is shown how to better navigate embracing each other’s differences!

Here’s the first episode to start you off!

This series is absolutely wonderful. If you want to check it out, jump over to the full playlist! You can also check out a writeup about the series over on the Cerebral Palsy Foundation’s website.

The Cerebral Palsy foundation does some great work educating, researching, and supporting those with Cerebral Palsy, and the world at large. They are a great resource to check out!

Get Curious

Let’s face it, as humans, we’re bad at ignoring differences. If somebody looks, talks, walks or acts differently, we’re going to notice. Even when we’ve embraced what makes us unique, sometimes it can be difficult to be compassionate towards others.

In the ESPN interview we mentioned above, Jason Benetti has some great insights into the role sincere curiosity can play in the moments where we find ourselves unsure of what to do. Being sincerely curious can help us learn more about other people’s differences, and it can help us recognize when we need to be more open.

You don’t need to be the one wearing a cape all the time, or fielding every question. But in the moments where you can be kind, compassionate, and curious, why not take the time? As Jason puts it, “The more we understand that if we are curious about people around us we’re going to find common ground so often.” 6

So, why not try, even if just for a day, acting as though the world would embrace us for what makes us unique? Why not try to channel those unique skills to help others? What would happen if we got curious about what makes others unique? Perhaps that way we can start finding commonality in the embrace of what makes us all stand out!

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!

-Liesl

More inspiration from the world of sports!

There’s a reason we love sports so much, there’s a lot of great life lessons to be learned and heroes to celebrate! Take a look at a few of these stories over in our library!

Sports on EWC

Notes:

  1. Thompson, Khari. “How White Sox Play-By-Play Announcer Jason Benetti Got His Dream Job | Only A Game.” Wbur.Org, WBUR, 11 Oct. 2019, www.wbur.org/onlyagame/2019/10/11/white-sox-broadcaster-jason-benetti. Accessed 18 Nov. 2019.
  2. That’s What She Said. “Dream Job: Jason Benetti.” ESPN.Com, ESPN, 2019, www.espn.com/espnradio/play/_/id/27053252. Accessed 18 Nov. 2019.
  3. CBS Sunday Morning. “Play-by-Play with Jason Benetti.” YouTube, CBS Sunday Morning, 13 Oct. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHH-JcM6nk8.
  4. That’s What She Said. “Dream Job: Jason Benetti.” ESPN.Com, ESPN, 2019, www.espn.com/espnradio/play/_/id/27053252. Accessed 18 Nov. 2019.
  5. Cerebral Palsy Foundation. “Awkward Moments with Jason Benetti, Episode 1.” YouTube, Cerebral Palsy Foundation, 16 May 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZqdBHG6w7A.
  6. That’s What She Said. “Dream Job: Jason Benetti.” ESPN.Com, ESPN, 2019, www.espn.com/espnradio/play/_/id/27053252. Accessed 18 Nov. 2019.

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

COO of Ever Widening Circles, Founder of EWCed

Liesl is a camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often floundering—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV