Athletes’ Stories Are More Inspiring Than the Plays
I absolutely adore sports. This is mostly due to my love of competition. I am one of the most competitive people you will ever meet. When one of my favorite teams wins, I will be happy for days. If my team loses, you probably should avoid talking to me for a little while.
What contributes even more to my love of sports, though, are the athletes and their stories. They are what make sports truly amazing. ESPN has a show, E60, which tells some of the most amazing stories I have ever heard.
They recently told the story of Kevin Jordan, a 19-year-old baseball player at Wake Forest. Jordan had an auto-immune disease that kept his kidneys from functioning properly. Jordan needed a transplant, but none of his family were a match.
The Wake Forest head baseball coach, Tom Walter, offered to get tested to see if he was a match. Six weeks later, he found out he matched Jordan. On Feb. 7, 2011, Walter donated a kidney to Jordan, his outfielder that had never even played a game for him.
Anyone that knows me knows that I am a total bookworm and that I am magnetically attracted to any book that is sports related.
Next on my list is “Beyond Belief” by Josh Hamilton. I recently finished “One Last Strike: Fifty Years in Baseball, Ten and a Half Games Back, and One Final Championship Season” by Tony La Russa.
I have also read books by Tim Tebow (I expect to take plenty of grief for this one) and Drew Brees, whose book is really, really good. My favorite, though, is “Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball” by R.A. Dickey.
The 37-year-old knuckleballer was named an All-Star for the first time this season after trying through the early part of his career to make it as a conventional pitcher.
Dickey attended the University of Tennessee where he majored in English Literature. Once, when his professional baseball career wasn’t going particularly well, he even considered becoming a high school English teacher.
From being sexually abused as a child, trying to cross the Missouri river, having to regain his wife’s trust after cheating and even the consideration of suicide, Dickey has led a less than perfect life. Some of the trouble was his own doing, but some of it was not. In his book, he creates a wonderful metaphor in comparing his life to throwing a knuckleball.
When he releases his knuckleball, Dickey must have faith that after darting around erratically, it will eventually land where it is supposed to be. Dickey points out that we must have faith that we will end up where we are supposed to be in our own lives.
In reading their books, I grew to really like each of these athletes. By most accounts, Tebow is a terrible NFL quarterback, but I really want him to find some kind of success. When Brees broke Dan Marino’s single season passing yards record, I was over the moon for him.
As fans, I think we sometimes forget that athletes are human. Every single thing they do gets broken down into statistics and analyzed from every imaginable angle. A guy is throwing too many interceptions or doesn’t get on base enough or he’s too big to waste his time shooting pretty jump shots and on and on and on.
Trust me, I’m as bad as the next person to expect every player to be perfect on every play in every game. But that just isn’t fair to the athletes. After all, no one expects us to make a 100 percent on every test we ever take.
The next time a player is having a bad day, give him the benefit of the doubt. For all we know his car broke down on the way to the stadium or maybe he’s in a fight with his wife. Or it could be that he’s just trying to step up and make something happen for a team that isn’t very good so an entire state doesn’t have to feel disappointed week after week.
Haley Markle is the assistant sports editor for The Arkansas Traveler. Her column appears every Monday. Follow the sports section on Twitter @UATravSports.