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Overtime: On Owen Groesser

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Kimberlee Hewitt Jason McElwain met former President George Bush after inspiring many.

Kimberlee Hewitt Jason McElwain met former President George Bush after inspiring many.

There will always be an argument that sports do not matter. It is true; sports make few important contributions to society. Millions upon millions of dollars get thrown at special athlete after special athlete, while teachers, doctors and police officers struggle to make ends meet. Hero after hero gets taken down; many are exposed as users of performance enhancing drugs.  Numerous athletes become bad role models as they violate their league’s substance abuse policy, or get in trouble with the law.  It is easy to claim that sports do not matter.

Recent events have given even more credence to this argument.  Before the Super Bowl, Ravens hero Ray Lewis was accused of using deer antler spray to enhance his performance. The latest allegations also brought up the time Lewis was implicated in the stabbing of two men in January 2000. Lewis’s trouble with the law shows a key way that sports can be a problem.

Lance Armstrong is another case. Armstrong was a hero to millions of people, a cancer survivor who won multiple Tour de France titles. He vehemently denied any allegations of cheating brought against him.  When we found out the truth, that Armstrong had cheated for years, we were angry. Yet another hero from the sports world had let us down.  Clearly, it has become easier and easier to argue that sports produce little of value to society and its “heroes” always fail.

Tell that to Owen Groesser.  Owen Groesser is a junior high school student at Van Hoosen Junior High School in Detroit. Groesser hit a pair of three-pointers in his school’s season finale. What is so special about that? Owen Groesser has Down Syndrome.

Groesser entered late in the last game of Van Hoosen’s season. His first three-pointer sent the crowd into a frenzy. His second did very much the same thing.  Groesser played just two minutes, but scored the six biggest points of the entire night.

After the game, Grosser’s teammates and friends started #GetOwenOnSportsCenter, which ended up trending on Twitter. Sportscenter put Grosser’s two threes in its Top 10 plays, and had him and his father on the show for an interview the next day.

At times, it can be difficult to see, but sports do have the power to make important contributions to society.  Sports, perhaps better than anything, can teach people the value of cooperation and teamwork.  Sports show that we can truly achieve great things when we work together.  Grosser’s teammates and coaches refused to give up on him.  Groesser is a true sports hero.

Grosser’s story is reminiscent of Jason McElwain’s. McElwain has autism. Feb. 15 will be the seventh anniversary of the night he scored 20 points.   McElwain got his chance in the last game of the season for Greece Athena High School in Rochester, N.Y.  He missed his first two shots, something that would cause others to give up. McElwain persevered and went on to make seven shots, six of them from three point range.

These two are stories that pull on the heartstrings.  The incredible amount of love and excitement in the both Groesser’s and McElwain’s highlight videos. For one day, a young man struggling with a difficult condition was on top of the world.  How did he get there? The answer is simple: Sports.

McElwain’s six three-pointers have become the stuff of legend;  So have Owen Groesser’s achievements. This is the power of sports.  A young man with autism and another with Down Syndrome showed an incredible amount of resiliency and heart. They proved that anyone can achieve anything.  Groesser and McElwain are prime examples of all the good sports can do.  Their stories bring people together, give people hope and show them that any door can be opened, any wall can be scaled. Like Groesser, McElwain serves as a true sports hero.

Today’s sports world can bring many harsh headlines.  It is certainly easier for society to break people than it is to build them up.  So many athletic heroes have let us down that we have to remain skeptical. This is wrong. The sports world is full of true heroes; we just have to look a little harder.

The next time a star athlete is accused of using performance enhancing drugs or becomes embroiled in some other scandal, remember Owen Groesser. Remember Jason McElwain. Take strength from their stories. Sports are great because they allow us to achieve something collectively and individually.  They allow us to constantly seek to better ourselves, to reach our highest point.

Thank you, Jason McElwain.  Thank you, Owen Groesser. Thank you for showing the real power of sports.

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Overtime: On Owen Groesser