Annual Flag Football Tournament Honors Former CMU Professor’s Memory

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By Daniel Casciato

Randy Pausch, the esteemed Carnegie Mellon University professor who inspired millions worldwide through his highly acclaimed “The Last Lecture,” died of complications from pancreatic cancer on July 25, 2008. He touched the lives of all who knew him, and in The Last Lecture, he shared his insights on finding the good in other people, working hard to overcome obstacles, and living generously. His stunningly positive attitude towards life was infectious and awe-inspiring.

Pausch was also a passionate and intense flag football participant in the Pittsburgh Sports League (PSL).  In the fall of 2008, the PSL, in association with PUMP, the young professional organization, created the Randy Pausch Memorial Flag Football Tournament in honor of Pausch’s love of the game and in keeping with his goals of living life to the fullest and focusing on others. Pausch gave the league his blessing to do the event before he passed away, and suggested Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) as the recipient of the team fees.

In his memory, the tournament has become an annual event with the ongoing mission of raising money for charity while also raising awareness about the messages of The Last Lecture.

“Randy’s friends felt compelled to do something to honor Randy while he was still alive,” says Becky Reitmeyer, director of PSL, “and since they all played PSL flag football with him and he loved it, they felt that this was something they could do—something they could build, participate in, and something that was creative and fitting. They approached PUMP to see if we would partner with them.”

Pausch’s friends felt that the tournament was the appropriate way to honor him because his legacy includes the lessons he left behind for his children in The Last Lecture.  Lessons like “Do not give up striving for your dreams: Even if you do not achieve them, there is still a lot that you can gain out of trying.” Or “Always maintain a sense of fun and wonder, no matter how old you are.”

“I think that his participation in PSL flag football helped fulfill his childhood dream of playing football, and maintaining that sense of fun,” says Reitmeyer. “It just seemed to be a good fit.”

The annual tournament features competitions for both women’s and men’s flag football teams with proceeds donated to PanCAN and PUMP.  PanCAN advances research and supports patients with pancreatic cancer on both the local and national levels.  In its inaugural year, the PSL hosted 24 teams (about 300 participants). Last year, they hosted 32 teams (about 320 participants). To date, the tournament has helped raise $13,600 to PanCAN.

PUMP’s mission is to make Pittsburgh a more dynamic, diverse place to live by giving young and young-thinking people a voice and inspiring them to affect change in our community through civic engagement, professional development, recreation, and social networking.

As the event continues to grow, Reitmeyer says that they are always in need of assistance, especially for volunteer referees—“folks who know football like the back of their hand and hold up well in competitive situations.”

“We also need food/drink or prize donations, in addition to corporate sponsorships to help underwrite the cost of the event,” she adds.

Looking ahead, Reitmeyer says that the PSL wants to maintain a fun event that reminds the participants of Pausch and his lessons, while raising funds for PANCAN and for PUMP.

“I hope the participants are inspired to learn about Randy and what he left behind for us,” she says. “I hope they leave with a sense of fun and good sportsmanship and charity.”

This year’s tournament is scheduled to take place on Sunday, October 10 at the South Park Fairgrounds. For sponsorship opportunities or for further details visit www.randypauschfootball.com or email Becky Reitmeyer at becky@pump.org..