The good that athletes do is often obscured by the publicity their failings generate.
Drug problems have become so commonplace on the sports pages that unless the offender is a superstar, coverage is restricted to a paragraph or two. Then there's the numerous labor disputes between management and players and, in some cases, between owners and cities.Even when drugs and disputes are out of the news, controversies seem to arise to overshadow athletic achievement recent controversial books by Jim McMahon and Dave Winfield come to mind.
Which is why the heartwarming athletic story is so appreciated today the type where Babe Ruth goes to the hospital to see a little boy, promises him he'll hit a homer and then goes to the ballpark and hits two.
Greg Norman may have outdone the Babe this past week.
Golf's "Great White Shark" may now be linked to what he did at Hilton Head Island, S.C., instead of the torment he suffered last year at Augusta, Ga., when he lost the Master's in sudden death when Larry Mize chipped in a shot from well off the green.
What Norman did was become Santa Claus in April.
A gravely ill youth with leukemia, Jamie Hutton of Madison, Wis., had a wish. He wanted to meet Greg Norman. Through Thursday's Child, a charitable group that grants wishes to sick youngsters, the two made contact.
But it wasn't a quick meeting with an autographed picture. No, Norman gave much more. He had Hutton accompany him the last two rounds of the tournament.
Originally, it was just to be for Saturday's third round, since Hutton had to catch a plane to get back to Madison early Monday for treatment. But Norman wanted the youth to be around at the end and chartered a plane for him so he could do so.
It was a happy ending for both, as Norman shot a closing-round 66 to pick up his first victoy in two years on the PGA Tour, and Hutton got the experience of a lifetime.
Norman left no doubt as to what he thought was more important the win or the youngster.
"Every time I played today and looked over, he gave me a nice smile. Every time I made a putt, I saw him clapping and very excited. That pumped me up pretty good," Norman said.
"When I was over the putt on the 18th (hole), I said to myself, `This is for Jamie,' " he added.
The golfer from Australia gave Hutton the winner's jacket and trophy.
That act and the whole weekend was a touching gesture by an obvious gentleman of sport.