Saturday, January 07, 2017

Standing His Ground

I love athletes with class. This entry, from January 4, 2013, is about one of them.
Some of you undoubtedly saw the picture posted above. The Sugar Bowl was played several nights ago in New Orleans. It pitted Florida, one of the powers from the hyper-tough SEC versus Louisville, a team with two losses and a fourteen point underdog, coached by former Gator assistant Charlie Strong. Without going into a rehash of the game, Louisville knocked off the highly favored Florida squad rather easily. Normally, after wins, the Gators gather in front of the Florida band and sing the alma mater. It was the final game of the season and the Florida players were understandably devastated. But it was also the final game of the year for the band and the last time playing the alma mater in a football setting. When they cranked up the song, which incidentally was penned by Milton Yeats in 1925, only one player or coach came to sing. That's Darrin Kitchens shown above who stayed after everyone else had retreated to the locker room. Kitchens, a junior reserve linebacker, never played one snap during the game.

Athletic contests bring out emotions of many kinds and I've seen them all, or at least a majority, as a coach and a player. It's much easier to be gracious and hang around when you win. Winning can make life happier, even if for only a moment. Conversely, losing can make you question and perhaps loathe yourself, even temporarily, and I say that with no pride. Once, when coaching high school basketball in Tennessee, we lost a game to a team we had previously beaten badly. I was so upset with the outcome that we ended our post game talk without praying, something we never ever did. The sad thing is that one of the other coaches had to inform me- I didn't even know it, to my great regret. The fact that this young football player still acted with class in spite of a loss that some are calling humiliating is a testimony to his character. No one is berating his teammates for not hanging around but he is getting a avalanche of shoutouts for his gesture. Guess who the band's favorite Gator will be next season? 

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David Barnett said...

Great story!

Linda Fischer said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. What an encouragement to see a young man stand up with integrity!