Unfortunately, I have loved the San Diego Chargers and Padres my entire life. I say unfortunately because they have been in existence for a combined 87 years and have accumulated exactly 0 championships. However, I do not only love these teams, I live and die on every at bat, every down, and every play. I can name every player, every trade, and every transaction made by both teams over the last ten years. I can remember specific plays in specific games, and I can quote players’ and coaches’ quotes. This passion isn’t healthy but I can’t help it. Normally, many people don’t understand why I invest so much time and emotion into the Chargers and Padres. Truthfully, I can’t blame them; all I can do is explain that it’s a passion you’re born with. However, I believe the reason why I and millions of sports fans across the globe invest so much time and feelings into a sports team is because of a connection and representation of where you live and/or where you’re from, and also because I know that the investment a community makes on a team is always given back.
Nevertheless, this sports-driven life I lead isn’t always about the glory of a win or the misery of defeat. Love for sports and sports teams creates friendships, and challenges people physically and mentally. They’re an escape from reality. Many sports advocates will tell you sports are great for children because they provide them with something positive to do outside of school, and they enhance children’s abilities to develop self confidence, sportsmanship, and team work skills. But I will tell you something they don’t tell you. Sports provide men from elementary school kids to senior citizens-with an opportunity to express love and passion for a cause, and in the process create a bond of togetherness, friendship, and brotherhood with many other sports-loving people, especially with those who cheer for the same teams.
Since most kids like sports, it is not surprising that many of them look up to athletes, particularly those on their favorite teams. Fortunately, many athletes and coaches are incredible role models. Many are also involved in the community for which their teams play for. One example in which a young boy’s pride and love for a team along with his favorite team giving back to him and his community comes together in the story of 10-year-old Montana Mazurkiewicz.
Montana was a life-long fan of the University of Notre Dame football team. Sadly at the age of 10, doctors diagnosed Montana with a brain tumor and told him there was nothing they could do to stop the spread of the inoperable tumor.
The head-coach of the Notre Dame’s football team, Charlie Weis, heard about Montana’s illness and decided to visit him on a weekday afternoon at his home which was only a couple of miles away from the university. For that one afternoon, the multi-million dollar coach of one of the most prestigious football program in the country and a dying 10 year old were just friends talking about life and football. Montana had become paralyzed from the waist down just a day earlier and was growing weaker by the day. He knew he did not have much time left and told Coach Weis that he just wanted to “make it through the game this week.” Before leaving the Mazurkiewicz home that evening Weis asked him if there is anything he could do for Montana. He agreed to let Montana call the first play of the game that Saturday, to which Montana said “pass to the right.”
Sadly, Montana died on Friday, a day before the game which he told Coach Weis he wanted to see and had even called the first play for. Coach Weis was informed of Montana’s death Friday night and he called the family to offer his condolences and also to tell them that the play Montana had called would still be run. The next day before the game, Weis told his team Montana’s story and reminded them that they represent a lot of people like Montana.
Notre Dame’s first offensive possessions that game began on their own 1-yard-line a notoriously difficult place to run a pass play from. The Mazurkiewicz family was watching the game from their home and was not sure Weis would be able to run the play Montana had called. Notre Dame’s quarterback, Brady Quinn wasn’t sure either, asking Coach Weis, “What are we going to do?” Weis replied that they had no choice and that they were throwing it to the right. The Mazurkiewicz family thought there was no way Weis would run a pass play from his own 1-yard-line. However, Notre Dame ran a play in which they faked the run up the middle, which allowed Quinn to run right and buy time to throw the ball. Once he ran out of the pocket, Quinn saw a wide open wide receiver running to his right and was able to make the throw. The receiver caught the ball and ran 13-yards for a first down.
Back in their home the Mazurkiewicz family was so overcome by emotion and love that they could barely keep on watching the rest of the game. Coach Weis did not only show an incredible amount of respect and love for a child that spent his entire life cheering for a football team, but he gave a perfect goodbye gift that meant the world to Montana’s friends and family.
Thus, it is in stories like these, in which the meaning of the game goes way beyond the box score, that I believe in.