Finding the sad and ugly in sports is easy these days. Such stories tend to dominate the headlines: tales of Ryan Braun’s suspension from baseball for cheating and the lies he uttered about it, the ongoing saga of Aaron Hernandez’s murder trial, and news that two different executives from the Denver Broncos were recently suspended for DUIs. We could find a least a dozen other incidents to suck all of the enjoyment out of sports, but emphasizing such stories is to miss so many other tales of good and hope.
Among the most amazing of those is the story of Dartanyon Crockett and Leroy Sutton, one a blind champion high school wrestler and the other a legless champion weight lifter. Both young men were functionally homeless in inner city Cleveland but were bound together by irrepressible hope. Lisa Fenn, a producer for ESPN, shared their plight as part of the Outside the Lines series, but when filming was over she stayed with them to help. Her report on why she stayed is powerful enough to make one forget the ugliness in sports for a time.
Then there is Shariff Floyd, who was one of the best defensive tackles in college football last year and was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. But Floyd’s background isn’t one of the pampered athlete jetting from elite football camp to elite football camp. He grew up in poverty and a home ravaged by drugs. But with the help of several key mentors and coaches he was able to find the path to hard work, consistency, a great attitude, and now the pinnacle of his profession.
And just this week we saw the story of NFL rookie Jonathan Willard of the Tennessee Titans saving a family and their dog from a burning car. And finally we have Landon Donovan, the star of the U.S. men’s national soccer team who suffered from extreme mental and physical exhaustion, returning from a lengthy absence to score five goals in the Gold Cup Tournament (a precursor to the World Cup) and lead the United States into the final.
Such stories of resilience, hope, recovery, and comebacks abound across the sports landscape—a telling of remarkable plotlines and stories almost too good to be true. All we have to do is look. The negative stories may dominate the headlines, but they don’t dominate reality.