From the Press Box: Good sports, poor sports and corporate sports

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Opinion and Insight

In the span of just over 48 hours a true trichotomy of Sport played out before my eyes.

From approximately 9 p.m. Friday until roughly 10 p.m. Sunday, I was witness to the good (and reminded of a similar incident from years earlier), the bad, and the ugly sides of Sport, from the unpolished world of high school athletics to the shiny, glitzy and oh so serious nature of the professional athlete.


The Good: As Friday’s boys varsity basketball game wound down, those who were in the Perry High School gym watching the Bluejays host Winterset were treated to one of those moments that simply touch the heart and linger in the memories of those fortunate enough to have been witness. The impact of the moment has now, thanks to social media, been felt by uncounted numbers.

In brief, Winterset reserve Ryan Hinsch was inserted into the game in the final minute with his team trailing, 70-58. Hinsch has rarely seen playing time this season and was yet to score. All of that changed over 48 memorable seconds, as the Perry defense stood aside, allowing the popular Huskies senior to attempt several 3-point shots, none of which found their mark.

His third miss landed in the hands of Perry senior Ryan Rathje, who passed deliberately to Hinsch, then enouraged him to drive to the basket. Players from both sides parted as Hinsch scored, sending fans from both crowds to their feet and generating wild approval from the Winterset bench.

Perry turned the ball over on their next possession, with Hinsch given a pass at mid-court. Perry’s Solomon Pierce could have intervened but did not, allowing Hinsch to dribble to the basket and score again as the final seconds elapsed.

For a full recounting, and to see video of the moment, click here: http://theperrynews.com/rathje-drains-five-3-pointers-in-third-quarter-but-saves-his-best-for-last/.

Those are the kind of moments that make Sport special.

I remember one year — I believe it was 2000 or 2001 — when I was covering sports for the Marshalltown newspaper. The Bobcats were hosting the CIML National boys swim meet at the high school pool, and the place was packed, with some of the best swimmers in the state competing that day.

Marshalltown had a senior student-manager with special needs that year. As a reward, coach Mike Loupee inserted him into the lineup in the exhibition heat of the 50 freestyle. The young man was thrilled and could not wait for his turn in the water.

The five other boys finished before he made the turn, but once he did, something amazing happened. The crowd rose as one, and the deck was lined with swimmers from all schools — some of whom would go on to win state championships that year — boisterously cheering on the laboring Bobcat. When he touched the pad, the place simply erupted, and the joy on his face was forever imprinted in my mind.

I feel blessed to save witnessed both events, and hope it is not another 15 years or so before I see a similar one.

The Bad: At the very moment the first half of Super Bowl 50 ended, I immediately switched channels, and did not return to CBS until a minute into the second half, thus intentionally avoiding the inane display of halftime “entertainment” the NFL foisted on the world.

I have since seen clips and read numerous observations. How nice of Beyonce and her dancers to dress like the American terrorist Black Panthers and give the Black Power salute. I wonder what the reaction would be if some white dudes had done something akin to the opposite? Can you imagine the uproar?

Then, of course, there was Coldplay, and I am not even going to go there. Or to Bruno Mars.

Time for the NFL to wise up: AC/DC would do fine for Super Bowl 51.

However, the worst was — surprise! — Scam Newton. He is, you may recall, the guy who dodged court over a stolen laptop computer that got him kicked out of Florida, and then, after a year of penance at a Texas junior college, was embroiled over accusations he accepted (OK, his daddy really did, but what the heck?) $180k to play one year for some school near Montgomery.

Newton looked annoyed and bored during the playing of the national anthem while others nearby stood with hand over heart or were, at least, paying attention.

His bravado and arrogance were doused by a lackluster three-turnover performance, during which he quit on his team by not even attempting to dive into the scrum to recover his second costly fumble. Newton would later put his hood over his head in self-pity and spend less than three minutes giving monosyllabic, petulant answers in the post game press conference.

Compare his actions to those of Russell Wilson last season, who displayed complete class by answering questions for over 10 minutes. It was Wilson’s pass that was intercepted at the goal line in the waning moments, you may recall. The contrast between the last two quarterbacks to lose in the Super Bowl is glaring.

The Corporate: The Super Bowl had not even started when Peyton Manning prostituted himself before an estimated audience of 49 million. During the introduction of the MVP’s of the prior 49 Super Bowls, Manning was shown, supposedly in the Denver locker room. There he sat, a wall covered by cases of a popular sports drink in full view, as Manning dutifully took a few gulps. He even managed to turn the bottle so the label would be more easily seen.

The owner of a Budweiser distributorship (which, alone, will make him millions of dollars) Manning made sure to mention in post game interviews both on the field, on the award stand and in the requisite press conference that he would be celebrating later that night by drinking plenty of Budweiser.

Hey, Bud is my favorite beer. Some tasty Buds are in my refrigerator as I write this. Wonder if Anheuser-Busch would pay me if I mention it again — there are cans of Buds currently resting in Jeff Webster’s fridge. I like Bud, and I like cash …

Of course, you are not reading this to learn my preference in American lagers. I am guessing you do not care what Manning drinks, either, or, at least, did not want to hear about it in such a pointedly awkward fashion.

Manning cheapened himself by so shamelessly making the plugs, and even went so far as to be sure the cameras saw him greeting Papa John on the field. I have never tried Paja John pizza, but am now dead-set that I never will. However, I will still drink Budweiser.

C’mon, A-B, that is several references now …

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