The point of Zen archery is not to hit the target, but to discover yourself. This is true of all sports. We keep score for the benefit of the audience, not the athlete.
The reason the world loved Olympian Mary Lou Retton was not because she dominated the competition. It was because even though she already had enough points to clinch the gold medal, she chose to do her final vault anyway. She performed when the score no longer mattered and she still scored a perfect 10. She personified perfection.
It wasn't Olympian Derek Redmond's record breaking 400 meter run that brought the world to its feet and to tears. It was the heartbreaking spectacle of him refusing to give up and limping across the finish line with the support of his father. He personified determination.
One came home with gold medals, one came home empty handed. Both came home winners. You don't have to be an Olympian to realize that sports is more than just scoring. Let me introduce you to Thamail Morgan, he plays high school football in Arkansas. He personifies grace.
As Luke Matheson notes, "Thamail Morgan is the type of player who can dominate a high school game. On every play."
Last year, playing for Newport in a state playoff game against Heber Springs, he had 15 tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles on defense. He had 145 yards receiving and two touchdowns on offense.Those stats are from one game. We're not talking about a football player, we are talking about a force of nature. This is the kind of kid any Division I school would love to have playing for their team. In fact, that was the path he was on until last January. Then he made a bad choice and took a wrong turn. I don't know the details of what he did, but they were serious enough that he was banned from playing football his senior year. All those dreams of glory vanished like dew in the Sahara.
Faced with that situation, a lot of young men go from bad to worse. Young Mr. Morgan chose to transfer to a smaller school that would let him play. Nothing remarkable about that. Everyone has been forced to lower their expectations at one point or another in their life. But, like sports, life isn't just about goals. It's about attitude.
"Before I screwed up and got myself into trouble, I had some schools like Arkansas, Florida State, Ole Miss, and some other big schools looking at me,'' he said. "Now they are not looking at me, but I have no one to blame but myself for that. Hopefully I can get on someone's radar, even if it is a lower level D-1 or D-2 school."When you contrast that to the reactions of politicians who have been caught lying, cheating, stealing, or being just plain crazy... you have to admire the young man's willingness to accept responsibility for his actions. It shows a maturity and courage that is sadly on rare display in congress these days.
Louis Pasteur, the scientist whose insights and discoveries have saved the lives of BILLIONS, once said "chance favors the prepared mind." Attitude matters. When you consider young Mr. Morgan's attitude, his behavior at his new school is hardly surprising.
After Newport, young Mr. Morgan went to a small school in Cave City, Arkansas. To give you an idea of how small that school is, they play teams like neighboring Yelleville-Summit.
Yelleville-Summit is a co-op program, a combination of two small rural schools in the northern part of Arkansas, near the Missouri border. Combining the schools allows them to field a football team. But even then, the squad is so small that coach Calvin Mallett has to bring extra uniforms in case a lineman gets hurt and someone needs to fill in.Going up against Cave City with Morgan, Yelleville-Summit's chances were slim at best. But slim would have been good compared to the reality they faced going in to that game. Earlier in the month, four of the Yelleville-Summit players climbed into the back of a truck driven by one of their teammates, Kymbal Duffy, and headed off to his house.
According to Marion County Sheriff Roger Vickers, this is what happened next.The Cave City game was their first game since that tragedy decimated ranks that were already thin. Yelleville-Summit could still field a team, but they had no substitutes. One more injury and that game would be over.
As Duffy came over a hill, he quickly came upon a brush pile in the road. Duffy swerved into the other side of the road, attempting to avoid it. He lost control of the truck, sending it into a tumble.
The four players in the back - whose names are not being released - were thrown from the vehicle. Miraculously, three of the players in the back suffered only minor injuries. A fourth remains in the hospital but appears to be headed for recovery. Duffy was killed at the scene.
Players from Yellville-Summit and Cave City met at midfield before the game for a moment of remembrance. Players on both teams were a No. 72 decal - Duffy's number - on their helmet.No surprise, the first quarter ended 21-0 in favor of Cave City. Even with substitutions, it was 28-8 at halftime. It was 34-8 at the end of third. Yelleville-Summit scored one more goal towards the end of the fourth to make it 34-16. Very little time was left on the clock when they had to kick. Morgan was on the receiving team because Cave City has only one receiving team.
The game began and Cave City quickly scored. Minutes later, it scored again. And again. All hope for a storybook ending appeared lost.
Yelleville-Summit kicked a line drive that bounced all the way to the back where Morgan picked it up. He ran it down field. He broke tackles, ran sideline to sideline, and when he was completely free of his opponents, heading for the end zone, he glanced at the score board and saw the final seconds ticking down. All alone, he reached the 2 yard line and stopped. Then he stepped back and took a knee at the 5 yard line and ran out the clock.
He could have humiliated the other team. He could have humiliated himself by showboating. Faced with the chance to make a choice, he chose to stay classy.
When I compare the behavior of young Mr. Morgan to the behavior we have been forced to watch out of congress in general and the Senate Finance Committee in particular, all I can say to the senators is "Stop playing games."