Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tragedy and Triumph

Some thoughts this afternoon from the other side of Duck.

Often times, in our thrill of cheering for exceptional athletes in a sport we all love, many of us lose sight of how much sacrifice is involved. Many times, when we hear this phrase, we believe it to be about the athlete; the amount of blood, sweat, tears and emotion that is poured into the sport that brings us all such pleasure on Saturday afternoons. We all know about that sacrifice.

Instead, let’s think about the unseen sacrifices. Focusing on just the 119 Division I colleges that sponsor football, there are a little more than 10,000 Division I college football players. Yet, there are over 15,000 high schools. At every one of those high schools are dozens of boys many of whom dream about playing college football. Some of them go on to achieve their football dreams; most do not.

The vast majority of young men who play their last ever football game as a high school student-athlete go on to live normal and productive lives. But theirs is not the story of tragedy.

We have all heard of the tragic stories of young men like Maurice Clarett. We at Oregon know stories about young men like Terrence Kelly and Todd Doxey, young men taken in tragic fashion before their time. We have even seen one near tragedy with a significantly better outcome with the Rodney Woods story.

There are other stories, even more tragic of innocence lost, fractured lives and lost souls we have never heard. I love the sport of football. I was one of those kids that dreamed of playing in college. I played for a small college team before injury ended my career. Football, and all sports, can provide an incredible example for young men and women. From the teamwork aspects to the incredible discipline and mental conditioning, athletics can offer everyone something truly remarkable. Unfortunately, along the way, in pursuit of an over-simplified and misunderstood mythical American Dream, we have let the train be derailed. Rather than finding the beauty that is sport, our society has glamorized the wealth aspect to the point that the focus has been lost.

My next piece will focus on two stories; one of opportunity found; the other of opportunity lost. Understand that the purpose of the article will not be to tear down a sport. Rather it will be to show what an incredible benefit the sport can be, if used properly, and just how tragic a story can be when we lose sight of reality. For now, I cannot say much, I have several people to talk to and follow up with to make this a reality. I believe it will provide an incredible window into a world few of us know, yet ALL of us should understand.

Hopefully, you will like the story.

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