“And when the Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, He writes – not that you won or lost – but how you played the game.” legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice
Until their felony sentences are up, pretty much the only way teenage inmates can get beyond the walls of the Gainesville State School in Texas is by exhibiting enough good behavior (and athletic skill) to make the school’s basketball team.
But with few if any fans to support these Gainesville Tornadoes, each away game puts them in a hostile environment where every cheer they hear is for the home team. For a brief moment recently that all changed, thanks to two players on a college prep team called Vanguard Vikings. As a CBS Sunday Morning TV show reported, the boys didn’t think it was right, and not much fun either, to play against a team whose completed shots would be greeted with silence.
Rather than complain about it they approached the student body with a plan, and the student body bought into it. On game day, when the Tornadoes came running out of the locker room and into the gym they got the surprise of their young lives. Half the students were sitting in the visitors side, many of them holding up GO TORNADOES signs. And cheerleaders wearing Tornadoes shirts were whipping the crowd into a frenzy.
The whole scene was a feast for the eyes, and for the hearts, too. Players who seldom if ever heard accolades and affirmation ringing in their ears heard them then. Soon even the Vanguard side was cheering for the visitors.
“I’ll remember this all my life,” one Tornado said. So, too, will the students at Vanguard Prep who, instead of chastising, cheered. And it is not out of the realm of possibility that some lives may have, because of this event, been changed for the better.
Who won that magical game? Everyone.
Don Jeffries is a Lake Wylie resident.