Regular readers may remember my post about Eugene Allen, the retired White House butler who enjoyed a front-row seat at President Obama’s inauguration. When I suggested the story might make a great children’s book, I didn’t realize I was already late to that party. Someone has purchased the movie rights.
Well, undaunted, I bring you another great story. This one is about character and integrity. I first heard about it when Michael Wilbon (one of my favorite journalists) and Tony Kornheiser were talking about it on PTI – Pardon the Interruption, their ESPN talkshow. When I read Basketball Showdown on the Bookends blog, it came back to me again.
When the DeKalb (Illinois) High School came to play basketball two Saturdays ago, they sat for almost two hours past game time waiting for their hosts, the Milwaukee Madison HS Knights, to start the game. The players and coaches were at the hospital, supporting Johntell Franklin, the team captain who was dealing with his mother’s death. Her cancer, thought to be in remission, took an ugly turn. She went to the hospital that morning, and the family made the decision to remove her from life support that afternoon.
Aaron Womack, the Milwaukee Madison coach, offered to cancel the game that night. Johntell wanted the team to go play their best. When Womack got to the gym, the DeKalb High School coach said they would be willing to cancel the game and come back another day. Womack, resuming his duties as good host, said that they had driven more than 2 hours and the kids wanted to play.
In the second quarter, Johntell arrived to cheer on his teammates. The game spontaneously stopped when he was spotted in the stands. Everyone wanted to show their support. Franklin asked to play, and he went to the locker room to suit up.
There are rules about players coming late to the bench. Because Coach Womack didn’t have Johntell listed as a player, it cost him two technicals. It didn’t matter that the DeKalb coach didn’t want to shoot the baskets, rules are rules.
Finally, after seven minutes, the DeKalb coach gave up arguing and went to his bench. He asked for a volunteer, and senior Darius McNeal stepped forward. McNeal walked to the line. One shot went about two feet then rolled out of bounds. Then he took the second shot … and did the same thing.
The sportsmanship doesn’t end there. After the game, the two teams went out for pizza, which is their tradition. For every pizza, there were two DeKalb students and two Madison students. Franklin didn’t stay for pizza, so he never had a chance to speak directly with McNeal.
This is a story that speaks to all of us, and not just about sportsmanship. It is for kids who play sports and those who don’t. It is a story that kids who have lost a parent can can connect with. It is about compassion, friendship, and family. And we can always use more stories like that.
For those who would like more details, you can read Art Kabelewsky’s article “Out of Tragedy, Sportsmanship Has a Shining Moment” for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; it was picked up by the Associated Press. There is also a video on ESPN.
Note: Cindy Dobrez reviews Layups and Long Shots: An Anthology of Short Stories by Joseph Bruchac, David Lubar, et al. We just finished our review, as well. Lynn Rhutan revews Boost by Kathy Mackel.