THERE is a classic YouTube video from 2016, posted by ‘LifeaccordingtoJimmy’, that has received over 27 million views, entitled ‘Grant a Wish Kid’s Touchdown Denied’, which shows a child allegedly with a disability (having been “born with a potato instead of a heart” — clue) being granted his wish to run the first play in an American football game with all the players from both teams joining in and letting the child run the length of the field.
As the young boy is about to score, the commentator declares “This is really one of those heart-warming moments in sports where you just…” only for a hulk of an athlete, hyped up, to come tearing in and knock the child entirely off his feet, flat on his back.
The comments below the video reveal how hilarious the spoof video was to many people but the question perhaps should be asked: were they laughing at what happened to the child or at the parody being played out? Of course, many people (again in the comments below) used the video to highlight what were key life lessons to be learned.
The comments included: “That kid learned a valuable lesson; you don’t always get what you want in life” — “The man who tackled him realized that the best way to treat Timmy is to take him as an equal person” — “Nothing is easy in life kid” — “Bro got what he wanted, the “true football experience” — “The defender took the quote (from Jackie Chan) ‘Always give it your all no matter who your opponent is’ seriously” — “Don’t celebrate too soon”. These lessons are, of course, extremely valuable and honourable but the question surrounds the treatment of a child with physical disabilities.
Do we actually treat children with physical disabilities well in the sports world? Actually, do we treat all our opponents well?
Contrast that story with another similar story that has been circulating on the internet for years (just search under the words “Shay, Shay. All the way, Shay”), where a father shared a story about his son who could not learn or understand things as other children did. The boy, Shay, saw some boys he knew playing a baseball game and asked his father if he thought they would let him play. The father, without much hope, approached the boys and asked if his son could join in. More with the feeling that they had nothing really to lose so they may as well (it was not as if they were going to win), they allowed him to do so.
The youngster was overjoyed to be allowed on the field, even if the ball never came near him in the field.
Then came the moment, though, when the boy was next in line to bat and they just needed one run to win. Now there was a dilemma for both teams — do the others let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? And do their opponents go all out for the win or play along with a young boy’s dream? Shay was given the bat, even though everyone knew he would not connect with the ball.
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However, the pitcher saw that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, so he lobbed the ball in slowly - yet even then Shay did not make contact. When Shay trickled the next gentle lob back to the pitcher, everyone shouted for him to run and the pitcher deliberately threw the ball well over the head of the boy on first base.
Both sides now shouted for him to run to second base as the fielder retrieved the ball and also deliberately threw it well away from the next base. The opposing short-stop even had to direct Shay to the next base with everyone shouting to him to run for home, where he stepped on the plate, and was cheered as “the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team”.
On finishing the story, the father made the following point: “I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.” That is a serious matter for us to ponder.
Now consider also, instead of a child with physical disabilities but a school with a much weaker team, how will we play? Will we seek to rub in our superior ability and crush the weaker opponents or will we show further respect and include them in our fixtures?
How would this pan out in Zimbabwe today? Would this happen in our schools? Will we ever see a situation where dignity and honour supersede pride and glory? Is that not a greater life lesson for our children to learn?
Sport in our schools also offers us all that glorious opportunity, which in turn will reveal our real inner human qualities. How will we respond? We shall see.