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What sports are really for
Posted March 3, 2006

Stephanie Duarte
Arts Editor

Six three-pointers in four minutes. This past weekend I attended my first pro basketball game, Clippers vs. Lakers at the Staples Center. It was exciting just to be there. It was my first time at the Staples Center, and although our seats were pretty high, we saw all the action on the brightly- lit court.

But this stat didn’t come from the Clippers/Lakers game. This statistic came from Athena-Greece High School in Rochester, N.Y. Twenty points was the final tally that Jason McElwain, or “J-Mac,” scored in the last four minutes of his team’s final home game of the season.

It was the first time in his high school career that he had stepped foot on the court for reasons other than to hand out water bottles or pass out towels. J-mac is the team’s manager and he is autistic.

What a story. I was able to see the video on www.youtube.com, but even more heart warming was the press coverage of J-Mac. (You can find the video under the Web site’s Most Discussed video section.)

From the stories I read, Jason was not able to talk until he was 5 years old. And although most of his classes consist of no more than 10-15 students, he was never afraid of making friends.

Helping his development along the way was his main love: basketball. He didn’t mind not playing; he was happy just to be there, part of something he loved.

And indeed this is something we could all learn from. Because with four minutes left in the game, Jason’s coach threw this kid in and the crowd cheered. Waving signs for Jason and even pictures of his face on popsicle sticks, everyone was hoping that he would have his shot at playing.

He missed the first basket, in a 20-foot attempt. But he kept trying, and he missed the second lay up. But he kept trying, and the third shot was a three-pointer, and then came five more. He settled for one two-pointer in these last four minutes, for a grand total of 20 points to end the game.

Let me think about the stats from the Clippers/Lakers game Friday- the game I paid almost $80 per seat for. I doubt that there were six three-pointers total. During the game, in which Kobe scored almost half of the Lakers’ points, there were times when I reminisced on high school play-off games that were more exciting than this game.

I felt bad for my younger brother, who, although a Kobe fan for life, was disappointed that his Lakers were not playing well as a team.

Basketball is not a one-man sport, and although we all know the highly celebrated big stars with their own clothing lines and incredible stats, the excitement of the game comes when a team catches a big win, as a team.

I was also thinking that the fans at pro-games were probably not nearly as entertaining before the invention of the big screen in the center of the stadium. Overall the game wasn’t too bad.

There were a couple really good moments; they were the great plays that actually make me like sports. The momentum, suspense and teamwork are what draw most people to every kind of sport. But all in all, I would have loved to be at that game in Rochester.

It’s such a great story because in one game, that little kid became a hero for himself and all the autistic kids who need love and support.

Jason’s dad said that his son wasn’t afraid of anything, which seems to be a characteristic of autistic kids. And just because these kids are mentally different from other kids doesn’t mean that they can’t feel joy or love.

Jason was driven by his love for the game and it’s no different from the rush that drives all athletes at one time.

I was listening to an interview on KROQ last week with Gold-Medal snowboarder Shaun White. With Kevin and Bean, he was discussing how many competitors in the Olympics grow to dislike their sports at the Olympics because of the extreme competition.

White said that some of his competitors felt that competing at that level takes the fun out of the sport. The new focuses are marketing, sales and promotion. While these are byproducts of the competition, White said that the main reason why he competes (whether this was true or simply for “promotional” purposes) is to promote the fun of the sport and to encourage participation. I know that’s what I look for in a sport: something healthy, something fun and something to push me to my personal best.

J-Mac certainly promoted all this and more with his amazing game and spirit, and he didn’t have to be a pro to do it.

Stephanie Duarte, a senior communications major, is arts editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at duartes@ulv.edu.