Every fan wants his team to be the best, to be the classiest…the one that looks great even in a loss. And when our teams embarrass and disgrace us on a regional or even a national stage, well, that cuts deeper than the loss.
Ron Artest’s …or what ever his freaky mettaworldpeace name may be today…. disgraced Pacer fans a few years back with his rumble at the Palace against the Pistons. A quick google of “sports disgraced” brings up too many to mention. Steroids, cheating, shaving points….all of it gives us a bad taste and a black eye for or team(s).
But what about class? What about the guys that put “doing the right thing” above personal gain or records? There are hundreds if not thousands more of these instances than we know about. Highlight shows and the like seem to prey on the dark side of sports on all levels while the good goes unnoticed and unrewarded. Not that they should be rewarded but shine a light on good stuff and show examples and maybe greater stuff comes from it.
Arthur Ray, Jr. made every major list and ranking for high school linemen in 2006. He signed to play football at Michigan State. Two months later, his world was turned upside down – bone cancer in his leg. He started chemo, didn’t start school, came back to school the next spring but had to leave again. Three more bone-graft surgeries, on crutches for two years but kept fighting. Fighting to play, he was finally cleared by team doctors this past January – four years since his diagnosis. The same time it takes to complete a college career he had spent fighting cancer.
Ray was one of head coach Mark Dantonio’s first year recruits. The coach could have easily yanked the scholarship and found another husky high-schooler to build his program with but he didn’t. Dantonio told him the team wouldn’t abandon him. The communications major kept his scholarship, kept his dream and kept moving forward.
Teammate Joel Foreman started his freshman year and every game since. Something unheard of in college. MSU was due to play Youngstown State to open the season. Ray would be on the team, on the sideline but doubtful he would ever see time with starters to feel the spotlight, experience his dream. So Foreman met with Dantonio and said Ray could start in his spot. His streak could end so Ray could shine.
He did. For one play. He trotted out with the starters, took his spot, made a block and trotted off with a dream fulfilled. The sacrifice of a coach trying to make his own mark, a lineman with personal pride and achievement – all set aside for one man to live his dream.
Sports class, let’s wrap that up in Spartan Green and White today.
Where have you seen class in sports? I’d like to know….