Friday, February 20, 2009


Competitive sports, especially professional ones, have grated on me for years. I'll freely admit that part of that has to do with my trying on just about everything I could growing up, baseball, basketball... the usual suspects—and I discovered that sports just weren't where my talents lie. More than that, though, I think that all my experiences of poor sportsmenship—both personally and in the media—soured my joy for what is, at its heart, a game. I've simply had a difficult time connecting to something that produces bullpen assaults, basketball brawls, and killer hockey dads.

However, the recent fantastic sportsmanship and attitudes of blown out Dallas Acadamy team helped me begin to see why people love sports once more. And the story of the Barbs playing a non-conference game on the road against Milwaukee Madison has helped me restore my faith in sport-loving humanity even further!

The two high schools were developing the kind of friendly rivalry that begins with really close games on the court and ends with sodas and pizza together off the court. But this game, their third, almost didn't happen at all. You see, late that afternoon, Milwaukee Madison senior captain Johntel Franklin was at the hospital when the decision was made to turn off the life-support system for his mother, Carlitha Franklin. She died just hours before the game. It was young Franklin who countermanded Coach Aaron Womack Jr's decision to cancel the game, saying that he wanted them to play.

It was early in the second quarter and the game was already very close when Womack spotted Franklin in the stands. He immediately called a time out and Womack and his team went up into the stands and hugged their grieving teammate.

"We got back to playing the game and I asked if he wanted to come and sit on the bench," Womack said during a telephone interview.

"No," Franklin replied. "I want to play."

Since Franklin's name hadn't made it on to the pre-game roster, putting him in would mean committing a technical foul, but Womack felt that letting the grieving young man play was more important than winning a close game so he chose to take the foul. Despite the closeness of the game, Coach Dave Rohlman did not want his team to take advantage of the technical foul. He reluctantly called for a volunteer to take two free throws after the referees made it clear that he could not wave them.

Darius McNeal raised his hand, and after Rohlman asked him a single question he simply nodded his head and went out to the foul line.

His first attempt made it about two feet.

His second barely left his hand.

The Milwaukee team stood as one, turned toward the Barbs bench and applauded their sportsmanship—the crowd followed suit.

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

The record will show that the Milwaukee team won 62-47. But as I imagine the two teams sharing pizza after the game, I doubt that the score was all that important to them.

They're all winners in my book.

Be good to each other
Rev. Josh

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