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Archive for February 20th, 2009

I am not a big sports fan;  I admit it.

The males in my family can easily and often do quote me when I get riled up, after reading about professional ball players’ astronomical salaries –

“I can not believe that that man gets paid *that* much money each year for hitting a ball with a stick!  (or, alternatively “carrying that ball down the field”)  Ten years from now, what difference will it make in a child’s life that he hit a ball with a stick?!”

(You get the idea.)

I don’t enjoy the hype and trash talk that fills the airwaves and television station breaks during the different seasons.    I know, I know – I just don’t get it.   I’m quite aware of that.

I do enjoy, however, watching high school and college rivalries.   They are so much more real than “professional” sports  – these individuals are playing because they *love* to play – not necessarily because they’re being paid to do so.  (And, yes, before you jump in – I am quite aware of college players receiving scholarships and other perks.)

But one thing that does catch my attention in sports is when you hear about an athlete who is so much more than just another jock out to make his or her mark in the world by earning mega-bucks through sports.   In this case, it’s plural – athletes.

It was a Saturday night in February, and the Barbs were playing a non-conference game on the road against Milwaukee Madison. It was the third meeting between the two schools, who were developing a friendly rivalry that spanned two states.

The teams planned to get together after the game and share some pizzas and soda. But the game itself almost never took place.

Hours earlier, the mother of Milwaukee Madison senior captain Johntel Franklin died at a local hospital. Carlitha Franklin had been in remission after a five-year fight with cervical cancer, but she began to hemorrhage that morning while Johntel was taking his college ACT exam.

Her son and several of his teammates were at the hospital late that afternoon when the decision was made to turn off the life-support system. Carlitha Franklin was just 39.

“She was young and they were real close,” said Milwaukee coach Aaron Womack Jr., who was at the hospital. “He was very distraught and it happened so suddenly he didn’t have time to grieve.”

Womack was going to cancel the game, but Franklin told him he wanted the team to play. And play they did, even though the game started late and Milwaukee Madison dressed only eight players.

What transpired next is the kind of thing you only see in a Hollywood movie.

johntel-franklin

Early in the second quarter, team co-captain Franklin appeared at the game, wanting to play.    The only problem was that Franklin had not been listed on the pre-game roster.  In order to play, it meant a technical foul against the Madison Knights, awarding the DeKalb Barbs two free throws.

While Womack, Franklin’s coach, was willing to give the two points to the Barbs,  Dave Rohlman, the Barbs’ coach,  was not willing to take them, arguing with the referees for five to seven minutes, saying, “We’re not taking it; we’re not taking it.”

Upon being told by the refs that there was no choice in taking the free throws, Rohlman asked for a volunteer from his team to shoot the ball.

His senior captain raised his hand, ready to go to the line as he had many times before.

Only this time it was different.

“You realize you’re going to miss them, don’t you?” Rohlman said.

Darius McNeal nodded his head. He understood what had to be done………..

He went alone to the free throw line, dribbled the ball a couple of times, and looked at the rim.

His first attempt went about two feet, bouncing a couple of times as it rolled toward the end line. The second barely left his hand.

It didn’t take long for the Milwaukee players to figure out what was going on.

They stood and turned toward the DeKalb bench and started applauding the gesture of sportsmanship. Soon, so did everybody in the stands.

“I did it for the guy who lost his mom,” McNeal told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It was the right thing to do.”

Franklin would go on to score 10 points in the game, and the Milwaukee Madison Knights went on to win the game 62-47.   Afterwards, both teams went out and had pizza together.

When you look at Madison’s team record, you realize that they don’t have the best record (6-11), but they genuinely care about each other.   Womack is quoted as saying,  “We maybe don’t have the best basketball players in the world but they go to class and take care of business. We have a losing record but there’s life lessons going on, good ones.”

And taken directly from the Associated Press article:

None so good, though, as the moment a team and a player decided there were more important things than winning and having good stats.

Yes, DeKalb would go home with a loss. But it was a trip they’ll never forget.

“This is something our kids will hold for a lifetime,” Rohlman said. “They may not remember our record 20 years from now, but they’ll remember what happened in that gym that night.”

Now that’s my kind of sports!  😀

Read the article in its entirety here.


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