Hey ’Cats. I’ve got a confession to make. This may shock some of you for, as you’ve seen, I can be very passionate about this thing they call sports. However, this week I’m here to say to you, and to the world: Sometimes things are just more important than throwing a ball around a little piece of grass or shooting a ball at a little metal circle with some rope hanging from it.
This thought has always existed somewhere in my subconscious, although heaven knows that once September rolls around, it’s difficult to find me on game days.
But something I heard in this week’s football press conference, mentioned almost off-handedly by coach Smith, sparked something within me.
As we were packing up and preparing to leave the media room on the second floor of the Health, Human Performance and Athletic Building, Director of Sports Information Kelly Bird asked Smith how the fundraising effort was going. Smith replied that it was going well, and he hoped to present the money raised to the young man’s family at the upcoming football game against the University of Puget Sound.
Naturally, I became curious, and I began to look into what the exchange was about. Soon after, I learned about Corey Obungen. Ever heard of him? Didn’t think so. After all, why would you know the name of one of the defensive backs on UPS’ football team? I certainly hadn’t.
But over the summer, Corey was on vacation in Hawaii for his cousin’s high school graduation. During a trip to the beach with some of his teammates, he dove into the water and landed on his head, snapping his spinal cord and paralyzing him from the waist down. Faster than you could blink, his football career and his life as he knew it were gone.
Yet, despite losing the ability to walk, Obungen says he just feels lucky to be alive. And he promises that he will walk again one day.
Here’s the Linfield connection: Obungen went to the same high school as senior quarterback Cole Bixenman. The Linfield football team organized a fundraising effort to help pay for Obungen’s medical bills and help him realize his dream to get up and move around on his own two feet.
This is the kind of thing I just don’t see enough of in sports today. Teams that play in the same league rarely send so much as a get-well-soon card to opposing players, even if they were injured on the field while playing against them.
Sure, NBA and NFL players have their charities, their philanthropic organizations devoted to feeding the starving, clothing the naked or helping underprivileged children play sports. That’s wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but where is sportsmanship like this in today’s athletic world?
Linfield has the respect of a sports nation, whether you know it or not. The Wildcats are universally known as a class act in everything that they do, and I can think of no better example than this to highlight why. It’s not because of the national championships in football and softball or because of “The Streak” or because we perennially challenge for league and national fame. It’s because we know what matters most and constantly strive to achieve it.
After all, football is just a ball, some boys and some grass; it’s just a game.
Chris Forrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.