Friday, May 24, 2024

Athletes helping make a difference

For those sports fans who say athletes are not human and all they care about is the money, I have a few examples of why you are wrong.

During the past few months I have heard quite a few stories of professional and college athletes and coaches who have made an impact in someone's life off the field.

Does this mean that these people are great human beings that deserve a bunch of extra attention?

No it doesn't. But it does mean that the monetary value of playing sports is not all these people care about.

I speak of this because of something I just got done reading about Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis. His story got me thinking about all of the other stories that I have heard recently.

Last Wednesday after Weis was done with his daily routine with the football team, he was asked to go visit a young man in the hospital who had an inoperable brain tumor. Weis didn't need to go, but he did it because he knew the impact it would have on the young man's life.

Weis was informed that the boy only had a few weeks left to live, but Weis said in his weekly press conference that by just looking at the boy it would be a miracle if he made it a couple weeks.

The boy's name was Montana. His brother's name is Rockne. Think about how much Notre Dame football means to this family.

Weis went and sat with this boy for a little bit and brought him a hat and some shirts and a ball and talked about Notre Dame football with him.

Weis said he wasn't doing this to make him look like a good man or anything like that, he was merely doing this to bring a smile to this boy's face.

What could be better for a dying boy than to sit and talk football with his favorite team's head coach?

I know for me that would be something special.

While visiting with the boy, Weis asked him what was one thing he could do for the boy that would make him happy.

The young man said he didn't know.

So Weis asked if there was a play he could run on the first play of the game for him and the boy said a pass play.

In his weekly press conference, Weis said this posed a bit of a dilemma because Notre Dame's first play of the game against Washington on Saturday was from its own 1-yard line. But Weis stuck to his guns and did what he said he would do. He threw from his own goal line, something that most teams wouldn't think about doing, and the pass was completed for a 13-yard gain and a Notre Dame first down.

The sad and unfortunate part of this story is the boy passed away Friday and never got to see the play. Weis said he just hoped that he was looking down and saw that the call worked.

After the game, Weis took the game ball and got it signed by the team and was planning on delivering it to the boy's family for them to keep.

So one story doesn't make all athletes great, but here are a few others.

Not too long ago I saw a story on ESPN about Atlanta Braves' second baseman Marcus Giles and the gift he gave a girl with a disability.

Giles was this girl's favorite player and she just wanted to meet him. Giles agreed to spend time with her and brought her and her family to a game as his guests. She got to meet him on the field and spend time with her favorite player.

Who can forget what athletes all over the country have been doing for the victims of Hurricane Katrina? Athletes from all sports have put together fundraisers and donation drives to help out people who lost everything from the hurricane. They have donated money and food and other supplies themselves.

Nobody said they had to do this. Nobody forced them into taking time out of their lives to go down South and help these people out by just showing up.

To me this is what makes sports so great. I understand that sports are their job. I understand that they get paid to do what they do and they get paid a large amount of money. But athletes are human too.

Not all of them are just about the money.

I think it is important to realize that when athletes put on the uniform of the team for which they play, they are putting it on for a large number of other people as well.

They represent what many people don't have the ability or chance to do.

For this and for everything they do to help out, I tip my cap to them.

Chris Barsotti is the State News Sports Editor. He can be reached at barsott1@msu.edu.

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