Sports gives feelings you can shake a stick at

September 07, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

Kobe Bryant's rape case.


Baseball players allegedly using steroids.

Doping problems in the world of track and field.

Greed and ego breaking up the Los Angeles Lakers.

The University of Colorado football recruiting scandal.

The sub-par showing of the U.S. Olympic men's basketball "Dream Team" and why.

Ricky Williams' surprise retirement after testing positive for drugs a third and fourth time.

Jamal Lewis facing a trial for drug trafficking and possession.

New York Yankees pitcher Kevin Brown punching a wall after a poor outing and breaking his hand. The Yankees looking for ways to get out of his contract.


Jayson Williams on trial for shooting a chauffeur.

Players like Shaquille O'Neal, Jason Kidd and Tracy McGrady demanding trades because they don't like their team.

NHL labor negotiations.

Above is a list, be it a partial one, of ongoing stories that contribute in giving sports a bad name.

If you think about it, sports is a soap opera all to itself because the off-the-field antics of players get more coverage than the games they play these days.

It gets frustrating to watch.

Then, I think about a friend of mine named Jack.

He's not a well-known athlete. He's a 73-year-old man who likes to shoot pool at a local tavern (Watch ESPN ... billiards is a sport).

Jack had a personal cue that he was proud of. He would bring it with him when he played, instead of using the bowed house stick that hung near the table.

One night, about six months ago, someone walked off with his stick. Stole it, just for the heck of it.

Needless to say, Jack was upset. He couldn't understand why anyone would do that, but considering where he was standing, he could guess.

Time went by. Jack managed to play with those curved cues provided at the tavern. He played well, but ...

On Saturday, it all changed for Jack.

A group of regulars who play with and against Jack chipped in and bought him a new stick to replace the stolen one.

Jack stood there, holding his stick almost as if he were Michael Phelps winning one of his Olympic gold medals.

He was speechless. He was shocked. He was happy. He had a lump in his throat because he realized a group of people he thought he only knew casually really cared for him.

In his own way, Jack got a glimpse of what sports and competition are supposed to be all about.

It's competing, doing your best, making friends, celebrating victories, hurting after defeats and, most of all, leaving the game and your foes with respect - you for them and them for you.

That's the beauty of seeing teams shake hands after games.

It's the fascination of watching an underdog coming through in a tough situation.

It's the awe we feel when someone overcomes great odds - illness, poverty or personal tragedy - to show the courage to try and win.

It was only a pool stick, but Jack will remember the gesture for the rest of his life. And it's obvious that his friends and pool foes will remember him for that long, too.

No matter the level, there is some good in sports.

Unfortunately, you have to work hard to find it sometimes.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at

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