Kirschman: Feel-good stories still exist in sports

By Lauren Kirschman

In an age when sports headlines are often dominated by trade rumors, seemingly already-overpaid… In an age when sports headlines are often dominated by trade rumors, seemingly already-overpaid athletes demanding more money, news of suspended college players and legal allegations, it’s sometimes difficult to remember what we love about sports in the first place.

The ESPN headlines yesterday afternoon initially didn’t seem much different. Carmelo Anthony was the focus of the trade rumor mill, Georgia running back Washaun Ealey was reportedly suspended from all team activities and Magic center Dwight Howard was annoyed with the discussions surrounding his contract.

That’s why it was so surprising to see this headline on the front page: “Wake Forest baseball coach gives player kidney.”

The article told the story of Wake Forest freshman Kevin Jordan, who was diagnosed with ANCA vasculitis in April. The disorder is a type of autoimmune swelling that occurs when abnormal antibodies attack healthy cells and tissues.

According to the article, the disease left Jordan’s kidneys functioning at 8 percent, requiring him to go through 18 to 20 hours of dialysis a day.

None of Jordan’s family members were a match for a kidney transplant, so another type of family stepped in. Wake Forest head coach Tom Walters got tested, and just three days after he learned that he was a match, Walters voiced his decision to donate a kidney to his outfielder.

It was a decision Walters called “a no-brainer” in the report, adding that he preaches the ideas of family and sacrifice to his recruits and his players. That’s the kind of concept that seems to have gotten lost in the sports world recently.

This is a story that reminds us that it’s not all about money and suspensions and steroids — it’s not even all about wins and losses. Jordan might never play baseball again, or maybe he will. Thanks to his coach, that’s an option.

So the next time you’re browsing through the sports headlines, look beyond LeBron James’ picture on the front page or the latest draft predictions, because there might be a story that reminds you why you started paying attention to sports in the first place.

There are also stories like that of Thomas Robinson, a Kansas basketball player who lost his mother-a single parent-in January. Robinson also lost his grandparents earlier in the month, leaving the player behind with his 9-year-old sister, Jayla. He scored 17 points in his first game back after his mother’s funeral.

Kansas fans rallied around Robinson, some even offering to adopt his sister. Complete strangers offered to take a child into their home for seemingly no other reason than that they are part of the Jayhawk family.

There’s a sense of family in a sports community that can lead a coach to donate a kidney and strangers to reach out to athletes they’ve never met.

Seems much more worthy of an ESPN headline than a Georgia running back getting suspended indefinitely.