Touching moment at Verizon Center today
I've been doing this sports reporter thing now for a decade. Other than a brief, post-college stint as a tutor/mentor in the Mpls. public school system and a night gig as a bartender, I've pretty much covered games, written stories and generally been around sports for the last 10 years.
I love this job.
That said, it's easy to get a little jaded. Sometimes dealing with ego-driven athletes, coaches, general managers and agents (mostly agents) can beat you down. Sometimes you feel that you should donate your talents to "important" things. The travel can be a real killer. Deadline can be tough. You spend Thanksgiving in Detroit and Christmas morning in Phoenix. Five seconds after you pound out a story, you realize that it's time to think about the next one. Relationships suffer and in some cases, fracture. You start thinking about doing something else, maybe something more meaningful.
And then you witness a scene like the one I witnessed today.
The Wizards were wrapping up practice this afteroon at the VC when I rolled into the gym thinking about what I wanted to write for tomorrow's paper. What's up with LeBron? (he's out tonight against New Jersey and I hear that he won't play tomorrow night either) Can the Wiz pound the boards against the Cavs and win a second straight game? How is Oleksiy Pecherov going to put a smile on my face today? (the kid is seriously upbeat).
And then I met Patricia Scales and two of her children.
You may remember the story. Scales is the women who was doused with gasoline and set on fire by a former boyfriend late last December. The incident happened while her daughter was in the house. It happened right before Christmas. She suffered second and third degree burns over 40 percent of her body. The last year has been filled with severe pain, endless trips to the hospital and financial ruin. Scales recently learned that she is scheduled for eviction. Right before Christmas. She didn't know what to do so she contacted Kermit Washington, whom she's met before, and Washington, who works for the NBA player's association and been heavily invested in numerous charitable programs, including one that feeds and provides medical care for starving children in Africa, came through.
Washington, the former American University and NBA star, didn't have the financial means to help Scales so he contacted Wizards guard Antonio Daniels and Daniels came through. He went to teammates and coaches, they all chipped in and tomorrow night, the team will present Scales with over $20,000 to help her and her family get back on their feet. When Daniels walked over to Scales and delivered the news this afternoon, she burst out crying, hugged Daniels and expressed her gratitude in a moving way that brought tears to my eyes and kept them there for about 15 minutes.
"Thank you! Thank you! Thank You so much! Oh my God! Last year we never even had a Christmas!" She said more but I can't quite remember all of it.
Later, Scales and her kids took a picture with the entire team and coaching staff. She met Eddie Jordan, Caron Butler and her kids got autographs from the whole team. Tomorrow night, as special guests of Ernie Grunfeld, Scales and her kids will watch the Wizards and Cavaliers play basketball.
Now, I have no idea how much more physical and psychological pain Patricia Scales and her family will face in the days, weeks, months and years ahead - I can't even imagine what is like to look in the mirror every single day and be reminded that someone you loved could disfigure you like that. But I do know this: for one afternoon, that poor women and her kids smiled, laughed and enjoyed themselves. That's pretty damn cool.
Daniels has done this kind of thing before. You may remember that last year, after hearing about the murder of then Miami Hurricane football player Brian Pata, Daniels saw Pata's mother grieving on television, was reminded of what his own mother went through following the sudden death of his older brother, Chris, and contacted the family through someone with the Wiz. Daniels spoke with the mother and donated the $10,000 needed for Pata's funeral. When I heard about the story from another party and wanted write about it, Daniels declined and I had to pretty much hound him before he'd agree to talk about it. Anyway, that was a cool move too.
And he's not alone. The Wizards have a lot of guys who have done some pretty cool things. Etan Thomas is as involved as any athlete I've ever covered. We know about Gilbert and some of things he's done. Caron and Antawn. All of them. I've seen some neat little things like Eddie Jordan picking a kid in the crowd at away games and handing the kid a card with the first play of the game on it. "This play better work. It's your play," Eddie tells them and the kid always beams while his/her dad/mother lights up like a Christmas tree.
I've seen Caron Butler walk past the scorer's table at the start of a game and give a fist pound to a cute little girl sitting courtside. I've seen Gilbert make a kid feel like the coolest thing in the world because he tossed him his sweat soaked jersey after hitting a game-winning shot. I've seen a lot of that kind of thing but today was something I'll never forget.
It's a cruel, cruel world out there. Young men and women go off to war and never come back. Athletes we don't know but care deeply about get shot and die. People we care about get sick. Cruel people abuse kids, animals and each other. Some really vicious people douse someone they supposedly love and set them on fire.
Every now and then though, we witness things - some little, others big - that remind us of just how kind people can be, how the simple act of reaching out and doing something for someone else can change a life or lives so drastically.
And suddenly, writing sports for a living feels like the greatest job in the world because you get to tell stories like the one I just shared with you.
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