bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Sandy Hook nightmare brings out the best in some good people

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From time to time, something happens that makes us remember how little our favorite sports really mean in the grand scheme of things. Last week, as I am sure you all know, a disturbed young man walked into an elementary school in Connecticut and took the lives of twenty children and six adults after killing his mother at home. It’s hard to imagine anything more horrifying than what took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the outpouring of grief has been discernible everywhere I have gone since that time. One of the victims, Benjamin Wheeler, was the son of an old high school friend of mine, and although I know that anything that I have been feeling is barely a fraction of what she, her husband, and their families must be feeling, it has been hard to watch or read any story about the incident. At times like this, though, we sometimes get to see the beautiful humanity inside some of our sports heroes. A couple of them, Victor Cruz and Derek Jeter, really seemed determined to make some kind of difference in the face of tragedy.

Jack Pinto, a six-year-old boy who lost his life that day, was a huge fan of the New York Giants. Victor Cruz was his favorite player, and he often wore a Cruz jersey while watching the games. The day after Pinto died, Cruz heard about his biggest fan via Twitter, and he was moved to reach out to the family. He spoke to them on the phone that day, and he visited them a few days later. In between, he wrote Jack’s name on his shoes during his team’s game against Atlanta. He was clearly deeply affected by the idea that this boy was such a devoted fan, and he did what he could to comfort the family and give them something to smile about. Jack Pinto was buried in his Victor Cruz jersey.

Victoria Soto was a teacher at Sandy Hook. She was killed as she heroically tried to shield her students from the gunman. She was not much more than a child herself, at only 26 years old, and her actions will be remembered by many people for a very long time. At her funeral, the person eulogizing her discussed what a fan of the Yankees she was. Someone in attendance must have gotten this information to Derek Jeter, who called Soto’s mother later that day. They spoke for some time, and although we obviously don’t know what was discussed, it is certain that it meant something to Mrs. Soto and her family.

There are a lot of perks to being a professional athlete, and there is a cost to it as well. A guy like Derek Jeter, especially, has no anonymity. I imagine that very few people who are not famous could understand the lack of privacy that these guys have to deal with on a daily basis. At the same time, they have the power to affect lives the way few others can. Guys like Cruz, Jeter, and any others who made the effort to try to help in whatever small way possible are to be commended for that. Their celebrity is a gift in that way, and the fact that they are willing to share it says a lot about them as human beings.

Good sports, continued:

2) Pat Kelsey, the head basketball coach for Winthrop University, knew he had a bigger audience than usual after his team’s game against Ohio State on Tuesday. He took full advantage of that, using the opportunity to speak about the tragedy at Sandy Hook and the need for change in our society. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim did the same after a game this week. It is good to see that happen.

3) Lionel Messi completed his record-setting season by scoring his 91st goal on Saturday, helping Barcelona to a win over Valladolid.

4) Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s NFL record for receiving yards in a season on Sunday, catching 225 yards worth of passes to end the day with 1892, eclipsing the former mark of 1848, set by Rice in 1995. Johnson still has another game to add to his record.

5) Check out the end of this high school basketball game between East Boston and Madison Park. Amazing.

Bad sports:

1) Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher apparently feels that the fans of his team don’t have the right to boo despite their poor play. Suck it up, Urlacher.

2) Demarcus Cousins continued to prove what a head case he is this week. He was suspended by the Sacramento Kings after a verbal altercation with coach Keith Smart during halftime.

3) So much for Jordan Black’s comeback. Black, a tackle for the Washington Redskins, gained 50 pounds in order to get back into game shape to play for the ‘Skins after a year out of football. It now appears that his physical transformation was not all natural, as he was suspended by the NFL for failing the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

4) Former Cincinnati Reds player Ryan Freel committed suicide on Saturday in Jacksonville. He was 36.

5) The New York Jets continue to be a circus, and Tim Tebow, as usual, is at the center of it. Mark Sanchez was finally benched this week after a season of poor play, and head coach Rex Ryan chose third-string quarterback Greg McElroy to replace him rather than Tebow, who made it clear to reporters how unhappy he was about it. Later in the week, reports came out that Tebow asked to be kept out of the gameplan entirely for Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers. That’s the way to be a great teammate, Tim. How about you do whatever the coaches ask you to do? I knew he was a bad quarterback, but did not know he was a quitter. I guess the constant media attention has convinced him that he should be a starting quarterback in this league. I disagree.

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Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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