Kevin Grow is introduced at a Philadelphia 76ers game.
Associated Press/Photo by Michael Perez
Kevin Grow is introduced at a Philadelphia 76ers game.

Finding a bit of joy in sports


What will you see when you watch the news or scan your favorite online news source? Likely you’ll see story after story of illness, crime, sadness, destruction, and heartbreak. In light of all this it is easy to see sports as merely a distraction from the hard things, but sports have a unique ability to reveal good, kindness, inspiration, and encouragement.

Kevin Grow managed his high school basketball team and was beloved. His dream was to be a basketball player, but Grow has Down syndrome. In the last game of his senior year last February the coach of his Bensalem (Pa.) High School team put him in the game. The opposing team understood the gesture and stood back while Grow made a lay up. The crowd cheered, but Grow wasn’t finished. In under two minutes he nailed four three-point baskets, creating a lasting memory for him, his teammates, and the crowd of cheering fans. The Philadelphia 76ers and the Harlem Globetrotters later made him an honorary player of their teams.

In April the NBA held its annual rookie draft. Isaiah Austin, a center from Baylor University, anticipated fulfilling his lifelong dream by being selected in the first round. Instead, he was diagnosed with a heart condition that will keep him from ever playing again, a tragic end to a promising career. But on draft night, in an unprecedented act of kindness, the NBA did something unexpected: They drafted him—not a team, the league. While Austin will never play basketball again, he can say he made it to the NBA.

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The just-completed Little League World Series is one of America’s best sporting events. It is pure sport. This year’s competition, though, topped any in recent memory for inspiring stories. Mo’ne Davis captured America’s attention by being one of only four girls ever to play in the LLWS, and not just play but dominate. Jackie Robinson West, a team of black players from Chicago’s beleaguered South Side ripped through the tournament and into the championship game. They lost to South Korea, but along the way they proved themselves winners and lifted their community.

“Kelly Tough” is a slogan many NFL fans will recognize, especially those battling cancer. Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly had surgery in June 2013 to remove cancer from his jaw and mouth, but it spread. He underwent rigorous radiation treatment during which he and his family displayed remarkable fortitude. They had long used the term “Kelly Tough” as a family standard, but it became a public slogan through his cancer battle. Last week it was announced that three months after treatments, Kelly is cancer-free.

Ferguson, Mo., has owned the attention of the nation in recent weeks. The unrest caused school closings and kept high school football teams from practicing even with the season nearly upon them. The St. Louis Rams stepped up and opened their practice facility to schools from the district, providing a needed outlet and a bit of normalcy for the athletes. It was a wonderful example of those with much caring for those without

In the midst of all the strife and difficulty, look for the uplifting stories. They can encourage us to do good, to treat others better, and to find a bit of joy. 

Barnabas Piper
Barnabas Piper

Barnabas works for Lifeway Christian Resources and is the author of The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity and Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith. He and his wife live in the Nashville area with their two daughters. Follow Barnabas on Twitter @BarnabasPiper.


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