Posted Sep 13 2010 6:23AM
Back in 1980, Steve Nash had no way of knowing he would one day be a world-renowned athlete. He was just an impressionable youngster growing up in a sports-infused family on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.
His parents, John and Jean, were his first sporting role models. But 30 years ago, Steve discovered a new hero ... along with the rest of Canada.
"I remember being six and waking up every morning that summer to see where Terry was," he said. "It captivated a country."
Terry Fox did so by attempting to run the length of the country on one leg, hoping to raise awareness and money for cancer research. Dubbed the "Marathon of Hope," the 21-year-old from Vancouver completed two-thirds of the inspiring journey before a reoccurrence of the disease ended his quest.
Fox is the subject of Nash's first foray into documentary filmmaking. Nash and his cousin/production partner Ezra Holland premiered Into the Wind at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival on Sunday night. The hour-long biopic is part of the ESPN "30 for 30" series and debuts on the network Sept. 28.
It's a busy week for Nash, but that's nothing unusual. There's a Tuesday groundbreaking for an education center in Phoenix for low-income children supported in part by the Steve Nash Foundation. His philanthropic interests, which promote health and education for children around the world, mirror the lasting impact of what Fox began all those years ago.
His courageous example continues to touch and amaze Nash. Fox ran the equivalent of a marathon a day for 143 days before doctors found that tumors, ranging in size from golf balls to lemons, were ravaging his body. He died the following summer.
"He killed himself for the cause. He really killed himself for the cause," Nash said. "Some might think that's stupid, but the way he approached it wasn't stupid. He really was committed. Nothing was going to stop him from helping those kids that he met in the cancer ward, little children that disappeared from one day to the next screaming in the middle of the night.
"To improve their chance of survival is a noble pursuit -- the philosophy of the pursuit, but also the physical accomplishment. He ran, by the yard, more than halfway across Canada, which is one of the biggest countries in the world. It's quite a feat, whether he finished or not, it was phenomenal and enduring."
Nash and Holland, through their production company Meathawk, have created a number of short viral films and commercials, most notably for Nike and Vitamin Water. Most of their efforts usually drip with irreverence.
Tackling the seriousness of the Fox story proved daunting and ultimately rewarding for the two-time MVP, though Nash wasn't so sure it should be Meathawk's first extended film project. Before meeting with ESPN, Nash debated which way to go.
"Should I do a basketball story? No, I live that and it's just too much for me," he said. "Should I do a soccer story? I love soccer, I love all sports, I love the world, I love to travel -- there's so much there. It's funny, the morning of the pitch, a thought just came into my head, what year did Terry run? Wow, that's the greatest sports story."
The documentary includes interviews with members of Fox's family and friends, and detailed much more than just the run. His cultural impact continues to be a source of pride for Canadians.
"It was just a human feat that is unparalleled," Nash said. "The toughness, single-mindedness and unselfishness with which he committed his life is just a beautiful story about human beings, human power and being greater than ourselves. It captivated our country, for sure, to this day and has probably become bigger within our borders.
"Now we see people running across the country and the Sahara, but 30 years on a prosthetic leg that resembles nothing of a modern prosthetic leg, it was unheard of. It was unprecedented, but it was also dangerous considering the logistics of that leg and the travel, running up and down highways, and the fact he had just gotten over cancer. And after we learned he had cancer for much of the run."
Considering the fractured nature of our information-on-demand society, Nash wonders if anyone today could capture the imagination of a country in such a universal fashion. Times were different three decades ago, especially for a six-year-old who's grown up to share many of Fox's ideals.
"Terry posed a lot of questions," Nash said. "Why is he doing this for cancer? What does that mean? Cancer is a disease. Well, what does the disease do? Is it fatal? Are people dying from it? How is Terry going to change that? He's raising money for research.
"It posed and answered questions to a youngster that taught you about unselfishness, it taught you about charity, community, commitment. All these questions were posed and answered by this guy. At a young age, they were forever impactful and influential in my life."
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