Jerry Mackey was, no doubt, elated that his Oneonta girls soccer team had just won the state Class B championship on a windy, wet Sunday night at SUNY-Cortland. But before he could celebrate with the girls he coached, he had a more important task at hand.
As anyone who watched that title game knows, Oneonta and Marcellus appeared headed for overtime, the score even at 1-1, when in the last minute of regulation the Yellowjackets’ Madison Miller sent what looked like a harmless long-distance shot at Mustangs goalie Emily Buschbascher, and the ball slipped out of Buschbascher’s grasp and trickled into the net.
In that single, stunning moment, one team gained a state title, while the other saw its dreams shattered. Yet as his Oneonta players rejoiced, Mackey ran the length of the field to where Buschbascher was standing, and offered words of comfort and congratulations.
Just by doing that, Mackey showed a class and dignity all of us could emulate. Just the same, the Marcellus parents, students and other fans in attendance stood out, too, in the way they cheered on their team despite their broken hearts.
This is when sports really turns worthwhile, and teaches something beyond the fun and games, the wins and losses. How a person acts in their moments of ultimate achievement says a lot about their character, and also conveys a sense of priorities that all of us can emulate when we go through our lives and face all of our ups and downs.
Go back to that famous Duke-Kentucky basketball classic in 1992. Yes, the Laettner shot, we get it, we’ve seen it thousands of times and we’ll see it thousands of times more, as if the magnificence of the entire game was something trivial and inconsequential, which of course it wasn’t.
But my most vivid memory of that game is not The Shot. It’s seeing Mike Krzyzewski, on CBS, first mentioning Kentucky’s marvelous performance in that game before talking about his own team.