Thursday, February 19, 2009
Basketball tournament play is in full swing.
It’s about winning – particularly winning a championship.
But at times, we all need a story to “knock us back down to earth.” As much as we stress winning and love a winner, we should also realize winning isn’t everything.
Participation in sports teaches so much more.
A recent letter to the editor in my hometown newspaper, The Journal-Record in Hamilton, Ala., made me realize that as I go to all the games. It was written by a friend, Todd Clippard, minister of the Burleson Church of Christ, located about a mile from the house I grew up in.
The letter’s headline reads, “The real greatness of sports.”
Todd was in Sulligent, Ala., recently for a basketball game between the Blue Devils and the Hamilton Aggies.
It was senior night and Corey Marchbanks, a member of the Class of 2009, was in the starting lineup for Sulligent.
That in itself isn’t unusual, but this was Corey’s first time to dress with the varsity rather than the junior varsity squad. He is mentally handicapped with autism.
Todd said he felt a “lump in his throat” as Corey was introduced with his fellow seniors and made the way to center court – hand held high, waving to an adoring crowd and applauded by everyone in the gymnasium.
Then when it came time for the starting lineups, he was surprised. There was Corey and four others awaiting their names to be called.
The coaches restrained Corey as he prematurely left the bench to shake hands with Hamilton coach Barry Peoples. Waiting until his name was called, Corey was the last of the five starters introduced. With an extra voice of excitement, the announcer called, “And finally, a senior, No. 10, Corey “The Big Ticket” Maaaaarch-baaaaaaanks.”
Both sides of the gym erupted. Then Todd began to wonder - “How is this going to work?” This is a game between two big rivals.
Then he got the answer. On the tipoff, Hamilton’s player didn’t jump. The Aggies fell back into a zone and the ball was brought into Sulligent’s front court.
Corey was on the right wing calling for the ball. The pass was made and he shot an uncontested shot. He missed. A teammate retrieved the ball, and he shot again. He missed. There was another rebound and pass to Corey, this time closer to the basket. The shot went in and the fans on both sides went wild.
What next? Corey moved to the defensive end as the Aggies possessed the ball. Hamilton’s point guard brought the ball up the floor, and with no one defending, he calmly laid the ball in the hoop.
“This is great,” Todd writes. “Corey has scored and my good friend and Sulligent head coach Tommy Chism has returned the basket.”
Todd figured that would be the end of this wonderful story.
But once again Sulligent brought the ball up the floor, passed to Corey, who missed, but then made it on an uncontested second try.
That continued until Corey had made five shots – 10 points. At one point, an Aggie even got the defensive rebound and handed the ball to Corey, who scored.
Hamilton also scored five uncontested baskets to knot the game at 10.
Then Coach Chism called a timeout two and a half minutes into the game and took Corey out.
Everyone in the gym rose to their feet and cheered for the marvelous feat they had just witnessed.
Corey didn’t play again on this night. Hamilton won the game on a last-second shot.
But the outcome wasn’t the story on this night. The story was Corey Marchbanks and the agreement between two coaching friends and two outstanding men.
As Todd wrote, “Two minutes in a small gymnasium in Sulligent, Ala., and numerous lives changed forever.”
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