Between rampant misconduct among some professional athletes and what sometimes seems to be a culture of winning at any costs, it sometimes seems that good sportsmanship and character are vanishing from American life. A recent article by Brad Herzog makes the important point that character and honor are still found on the country’s athletic fields. A couple of examples, starting with the story of Sarah Tucholsky:
In April 2008, the 5-foot-2 right fielder for the Western Oregon University softball team had never hit a home run, not even in batting practice. Yet in the second inning against Central Washington University she knocked a pitch over the center field fence for an apparent three-run homer. She exuberantly sprinted toward first base, then forgot to touch it. She stopped abruptly … and felt something give in her knee. She collapsed in the base path and crawled back to first.The umpires informed her coach that rules forbade Tucholsky’s teammates from assisting her around the bases. And a pinch runner would relegate the hit to a two-run single. So much for the only home run of her four-year career. That’s when Mallory Holtman, the opposing team’s first baseman, and the all-time leading home run hitter in the conference, spoke up: “Can I help her out?”Holtman and teammate Liz Wallace gently lifted their injured opponent and resumed the home run walk, pausing to allow Tucholsky to touch each base. The three of them began to laugh as they rounded the bases, but the rest of the folks in the stadium—the Western team, the coaches, the crowd—were wiping away tears.
Or there is this story from a boys’ basketball game in Wisconsin in February 2009:
At a local hospital, co-captain Johntel Franklin, surrounded by several of his teammates, was by his mother’s bedside as she lost a five-year battle with cervical cancer. Coach Aaron Womack Jr. decided to cancel the evening’s game. But Franklin talked him out of it, and early in the second quarter of a close contest, the grieving son showed up at the gym. The team called a time-out as players and fans offered hugs and condolences, and Womack invited Franklin to take a seat on the bench. “No,” he said. “I want to play.”Unfortunately, the coach hadn’t included Franklin on the pregame roster, meaning the other team, Dekalb High, would be awarded two technical foul shots. Dekalb coach Dave Rohlman refused. “We’re not taking it,” he told the referees, over and over. Still, the refs insisted. Rules were rules. Dekalb senior Darius McNeal walked toward the free-throw line. “You realize you’re going to miss them, don’t you?” Rohlman told him. McNeal nodded.His first shot landed two feet away. The second time he just dropped the ball. When the home team realized what was happening, the players stood, turned toward the opposing bench and began clapping. Soon, the crowd was applauding the visiting team too. After the game, which Milwaukee Madison won, the two teams went out for pizza together. Said Rohlman, “This is something our kids will hold onto for a lifetime. They may not remember our record 20 years from now, but they’ll remember what happened in the gym that night.”
Read the whole thing. All over this country, Americans keep choosing to do the right thing and it is particularly heartening to see that so many people in the rising generation have already learned some of the most important lessons life has to teach.