I grew up a sports fan—probably too much of a sports fan.
If the Chicago Bears lost, I had a hard time watching the longtime ESPN show Sportscenter that night. If they won, it was a great Sunday.
I covered high school sports for four years working at a newspaper in Kankakee, from 2010 through late last year. And I was fortunate enough to cover Bears training camp for a few years, with the team working out in Bourbonnais.
At some point, it got a little empty for me. It wasn’t the high school athletes I covered, but as I watched pro and collegiate sports, the thrill started to fade.
Really, what are these teams contributing to the world? There’s so much corruption and crime on both the college and pro levels. According to a report, the NFL just enjoyed its first month in six years in which no NFL player was arrested.
At my previous position, I cringed a bit watching Bears fans at training camp cheer for Bears players who had serious question marks in their background.
Luckily, my faith in sports was rejuvenated in a big way the past week or two. In the Sept. 23 issue, we published a story about 22-year-old Evergreen Park native Brendan McNicholas, who succumbed to cancer last month. Before his death, Brendan received a call from Mike Krzyzewski, the longtime coach of the Duke University men’s basketball team, one of Brendan’s favorite teams.
“Coach K,” as Krzyzewski is known, said Brendan could come out to any Duke game he wanted—when he was feeling better. Sadly, Brendan didn’t get that chance.
But it was refreshing to see Coach K pick up the phone and call Brendan—and no one, for the most part, knew about it. There was no publicity, from what I saw (until we ran our story), about the coach’s kind gesture.
As it turns out, our neighborhood residents have become close with a variety of famous athletes and coaches. Kevin Renderman was a 27-year-old from Mt. Greenwood who died of cancer in January. His story was featured in the Sept. 30 issue.
Renderman, as fate would have it, received treatment at the same medical facility in Georgia as did Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews a few years ago.
Renderman’s father, Mark, introduced himself to Toews—and they became close. Toews joined the family for dinner in Georgia. He later invited them to visit with the Stanley Cup, both in 2013 and this past summer, after the Hawks won championships.
Toews has always impressed me as being a down-to-earth, humble guy—approachable, easygoing. And lo and behold, after listening to Renderman’s parents talk about him, it’s obvious that Toews really is grounded and humble.
Certainly, the sports world has its bad apples, as most professions do. But, there still are many stories out there that will put a smile on a fan’s face.
We don’t know about many of them because the great coaches and great athletes don’t really need—or seek—publicity or the limelight.
And, I think I’ve found my faith in sports again.