Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Sports as Life
The past few days have offered two dramatically different perspectives on sports and the human condition. Taken as a whole these two stories show that the sports world is simply a reflection of the world in general and to remind us that extraordinary as well as ignoble people inhabit both worlds.
Take the case of Willis McGahee, who entered the draft after his sophmore season at the University of Miami. McGahee suffered what was thought to be a career ending injury during the National Championship game back in January. He tore multiple ligaments in his left knee and was carried from the field. Yet, through sheer will (with an assist from great medical care) McGahee has, only 15 weeks out from surgery, progressed far enough to be the first RB taken in the draft. McGahee is able to squat 225 pounds ten times less than four months from the date of his injury.
Here is a young man who nearly saw his future (at least the future he had planned) vanish. When he tore that knee his dreams of the NFL, of being a first round pick and of multi-million dollar contracts must have flashed before his eyes. Yet, undaunted, Willis worked as hard at rehabbing as he had at becoming college's best running back since OJ Simpson. This is a story of the power of human will and determination, and of a good guy being rewarded. The Buffalo Bills were impressed not only with McGahee's recovery, but the character that it showed. Willis McGahee is a quality individual, on and off the field, and the Buffalo Bills will be rewarded for taking a risk with their first round pick.
On the other side of the ledger is the actions of Iowa State basketball coach Larry Eustachy who has been caught attending parties on two college campuses, other than his own. One would have to question the judgment of any college official who went to college parties, but to make matters worse, Eustachy was going to parties after his team had played and lost to the schools. He is claimed to have made disparaging remarks about his team and to have become drunk and obnoxious at one of the events. Pictures show the coach being awfully flirtatious with undergraduate women, which must be a slap in the face to his wife and children. While it is not exactly Gary Hart's Monkey Business, it certainly displays a lack of character and judgment. Eustachy is, at $1 million per year, Iowa's top paid public employee, and with that comes the responsibility of being a model citizen. Perhaps the power and glamor of being a top college basketball coach was simply too much for Eustachy to handle.
The contrast of these two stories serves to remind us of the range of character in our sports world. Not all athletes and coaches are models, but not all are sleazy, either. The truth is that sports attracts all sorts of people and the same power that bestowed athletic talent does not always bestow decency and honor.


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