If sports is a Picaso masterpiece, life really does imitate art.
Tragedy. Exaltation. Triumph. Disappointment. The list of adjectives, superlatives, words of gripping emotion are endless in describing sports' greatest stories.
Columns listing stats and copied quotes truly don't delve at the core of sports -- the fables that each and every individual can relate to, take something away from, show understanding with.
Jason McElwain, a high-school basketball trainer yes, but an autistic child fighting a national stigma. He can't play sports people said. Oh, but he did, scoring 20 points in 4:19.
Payne Stewart finally capturing American golf's greatest championship. Embracing his wife Tracey in sobs of joy. Dying suddenly in a plane crash just four months later.
Or 9/11. Disaster and devastation in America's city -- the economical and cultural capital of the United States. Rampant flames, people jumping for their lives, but ultimately their deaths. Phone calls that go something like, "Hunny, take care of the kids. Call our attorney. A plane just crashed into our building...." And after 20 years of marriage or six days after telling your boyfriend/girlfriend "I love you..." you hear "I'm probably not coming home."
Sports was America's first sign of public mourning. The first step in moving forward.
This isn't the movies, where two guys in cowboy hats turn around, count to three then shoot. Or a day in age where serendipitous occurrences lead to true love. Rather, sports is real people, showing real emotions, and if we forget the "realness" of it all, there are stories of tragedy and triumph to bring us back.
This leads to my only true conversation with an athlete. I've yelled things, some unrepeatable, and received snide glances in return. But my only true conversation with a professional athlete, albeit brief, can be understood by all walks of life.
I was standing near the 18th green on Thursday of the 2002 United States Open, waiting to catch a glimpse of my favorite athlete -- Greg Norman -- as he approached the green. Norman wasn't jovial, coming off back-to-back bogeys with a round destined for mediocrity. Yet, as he approached the green he walked in my direction.
Not to me of course. But right next to me, to a young fan in a wheelchair. He took off his straw hat, placed it on the girl's head and said, "You'll need this to shield your eyes from the sun 30 years from now."
He then turned to the girl's mother and said, "Believe. It's a wonderful thing."
As he left the green, I shouted, "That was great Greg." Not referring to his golf, but rather his gesture. He turned, smiled, and said, "Thank you."
I felt like we had talked for hours.
Life brings misfortune. It's an inevitable disservice, especially to those who don't necessarily deserve it. But sometimes it serves a purpose.
I don't know if that girl is alive five years later. But I do know that during that moment, and possibly for days or weeks afterward, she believed she would be. And so did her mom.
Life truly does imitate art.
So, at the times of misfortune, remember Jason McElwain. Remember that little girl.
To rip off a Phillies advertising slogan...
It's just one more reason to believe.
Jared Trexler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Paintings are appreciated.