Last week, a video went viral of a 7-year-old cancer patient scoring a touchdown during Nebraska’s spring game. I saw it posted many times before I caved and clicked on it — thinking I’ve seen this song and dance, I won’t cry, I won’t get goose bumps.
And yet, as that tiny little body crosses the goal line and the Cornhuskers hoist him up, chills went immediately down my spine. My favorite part was the crowd audible in the background — there were a lot of people at that spring game. And they were so elated by the joy on the field, the joy that you cannot help but feel when it comes to college sports.
Lately these stories have been even more plentiful than usual in college sports — that or I’ve been more emotional than usual, also a major possibility. When we get to follow something over a long period of time as we have with the men’s NCAA tournament, a story seems to beautifully unfold before our eyes.
It seems that in college sports, you get to know who these student athletes are — not just their stats or their jersey numbers. It doesn’t take much to start recognizing whose mom is whose in the stands and to start knowing the twisted, often heart-breaking stories that made these athletes who they are.
When Kevin Ware was injured in the Sweet Sixteen, although horrific — it was a scene of passion I will probably never forget. Seeing his teammates and fans of both teams sitting in the stands weeping for him makes “moving” seem like an entirely inadequate word.
You felt it. I don’t mean the physical pain, for I feel none of us could even imagine that; what we felt was the emotional pain. It jumped through our television sets and for some of us came rolling right down our cheeks.
Now it’s very possible that all of this glorification of college athletics I’m doing here is unfair to professional sports because let’s face it: once someone is a professional athlete, their story has already been told and some of the best stories even get told in high school.
But deep down, I think there’s more to it than that. I don’t think it’s the only reason I’m a college sports fan, because there are no professional sports around these parts. There has to be a bigger reason we feel this way, a bigger reason it lifts our hearts so.
I recently started reading “The Razorbacks: A Story of Arkansas Football” by Orville Henry and Jim Bailey and the dedication page reads, “to all the Razorbacks…and to all the Arkies all over the world whose heads they have lifted.” At the end of the day the real reason to love college athletics is not because of scores and statistics, it’s because of the head-lifting.
As I prepare to graduate college and take a job with the NCAA where I can dedicate my life to the beauty of college sports, this is what I think about.
These stories are what bring tears to my eyes and remind me that what I’m doing matters. So I dedicate this, my final column as a Traveler writer, to all the Razorbacks, and to all the Arkies all over the world, whose heads they have lifted.
Liz Beadle is a writer for the Arkansas Traveler. Her column appears every other Wednesday. Follow the sports section on Twitter @UATravSports