Like many people, I used to consider sports a fun, but unimportant, distraction from my day-to-day problems or stresses.
No matter what was happening Monday through Friday, we could kick back on the couch and root on our favorite baseball, football or basketball teams on Saturday and Sunday. For many, that is still the allure of sports, and that’s fine.
But for at least the past two decades, sports and society are becoming more and more intertwined. Thanks to 24-hour sports networks and social media, we know more about athletes and their stories than ever before. With Twitter and Facebook, for instance, athletes and sports personalities let us into their lives and share everything from their offseason activities to their thoughts on social movements. Often, they help us put things in perspective.
This was the case for me, thanks to social media posts from two local athletes this past week. While unrelated, the two posts came within days of each other, combined to make me think, and put some things in perspective.
So many of us take to social media to complain about problems in our lives, our towns, or in our world. Anyone who follows me on Twitter or Facebook knows that I am as guilty as (or more than) anyone.
This is something that had been bothering Macie Schmitt. The Lapel sophomore volleyball player took to Facebook to say that constantly hearing about “political unrest and uncertainty” can be “overwhelming.”
Her challenge to others was to post 10 things that bring joy to their lives.
She received a plethora of responses with people listing serious things like their family, friends, life and community as well as less important, but no less joyful items, such as coffee, Diet Coke and comfortable pajamas.
As an aside, I can relate to the joy of an ice-cold Diet Coke.
But Macie was right. It seems that half of us are protesting the current politics and other half are protesting the protestors, and before we know it, we all become ugly with one another. It took a high school sophomore to remind me that, no matter what else is going on, I have plenty of things to be joyful about: my family, my friends, covering sports for a living, watching good kids succeed, a comfortable chair, and, of course, Diet Coke.
On Feb. 2, just two days later, another post from a young person made this old man sit up and take notice.
Pendleton Heights senior Chayce McDermott sent out a tweet announcing his mother’s surgery to remove a tumor was a success.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know Kim McDermott. I met her once, on the day Chayce signed his letter of intent to play baseball at Ball State. That was in November, just shortly after Kim had received her diagnosis. I don’t know Chayce much better, having only spoken with him that day about his college choice.
But I have walked in Chayce’s shoes.
Just over 13 years ago, in January 2004, my mother was diagnosed with breast and lymph node cancer.
The doctors had caught it early and the prognosis was good, but that did little to ease my mind. Through most of the process I kept thinking of my mother-in-law, whom I’ve never met. She succumbed to cancer in July 1987, more than a year before my wife and I met. I couldn’t stand the thought of losing my mother.
In December 2004, she completed her treatments and has been cancer-free ever since. She is probably the healthiest person in my entire extended family now, so I’m very fortunate.
Being fortunate is something I need to be reminded of from time to time, which Chayce has done. Aside from cancer, Ruth Ann Hunt, Joanne Clark and Kim McDermott have two common characteristics. They are all beloved in their communities, and no one will hear a negative word about them.
I should thank Chayce and Macie. Chayce reminded me how fortunate I already am, and Macie made me notice how many things in my life make me happy, despite all the negative in the world that I see and comment on.
I should also thank social media. Although it is a portal through which so many of us vent our feelings, there are nuggets of wisdom sprinkled among the negativity. And in one week, two high school kids exhibited more maturity and insight than most adults.
It was noticed.
And Macie, that brought me joy.
And to Chayce, I’d just say that there will be good days and bad days ahead. Take this positive first step and hold on to optimism and hope, and you’ll learn, like I did, that your mother is even stronger than you already think she is.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to give my mom a call; hearing from her kids brings her joy.