Doping scandals dropped cyclist after cyclist from the Tour de France yet again.
Hopeful Olympic candidates suffered the same fate as they, too, tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
Professional baseball sustained even more black eyes as it fought to dispel itself from the same issues.
The women of the WNBA fought through a brawl not dissimilar to those of the NBA in the past few years.
Parents of young kids in youth athletic programs rushed the fields and courts to confront, with words and fisticuffs, coaches, officials and even the youngsters.
Battles ensued in every rank from Little League teams to the pros between coaches, parents and athletes.
And all of these things were inundated with press perhaps because of their shock value and their ability to sell newspapers and bring in ratings.
Sometimes it seems that athletics only bring out the bad in people, that the villains outnumber the heroes in our arenas and on our diamonds.
But the stories that aren't told, the stories that may be given their moment in the sun only to be soon forgotten, are actually much more prevalent. Many athletes are good, solid people, and a good number of them go beyond what anyone would expect just to do the right thing or to help someone in need. Some of these heroes do find the spotlight shining on them a little brighter like Mallory Holtman of the Central Washington softball team.
Yes, she made the rounds on television and through the rest of the news mediums after displaying her heroics, though she still doesn't understand what all the fuss was about.
Western Oregon senior Sara Tucholsky, a part-time starter in the outfield, knocked her first home run over the center-field fence. In what could have been just a feel-good story about a girl who had secured only three hits in 34 at bats this season finally hitting a home run in her last regular-season game, turned into the good-sportsmanship story of the year.
The two schools were rivals with plenty on the line during their final regular-season game as the winner would take the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship. But in her excitement, Tucholsky missed first base on her home-run trot. When she turned to tag the base, she injured her knee.
Tucholsky lay in agony just a few feet from first base, and the only option available under the rules was to replace Tucholsky with a pinch runner and record the hit as a two-run scoring single. None of the coaches or trainers could touch the girl just off first base without it resulting in an out, but that was not true of players on the opposing team.
Out of nowhere, Holtman asked if it would be OK for Central Washington to carry Tucholsky around the bases. And the umpires agreed it would be within the rules.
According to an ESPN.com story by Graham Hays, Holtman said, "It's one of those things that I hope anyone would do it for me. She hit the ball over the fence. ... But I think anyone who knew that we could touch her would have offered to do it, just because it's the right thing to do. She was obviously in agony." Holtman and shortstop Liz Wallace balanced her between them and continued on "their" home-run trot, stopping at each base so that Tucholsky could touch them.
And what people learned from the entire affair was that life is not all about winning. What many don't understand is that so many athletes do already realize that. Yes, this story is about a remarkable event, one where the players had a real chance to shine when they did the right thing.
But they are by no means alone in their ability to help others with their selfless thoughts and actions. While Spanish Fork High School softball coach Don Andrews admits that "I don't think my players would have thought (to do that) fast enough," he also notes that he would have done everything he could to help the girl keep her home run, and his team would have backed him up.While longtime college and prep umpire Russ Carter agrees that to see that type of event happen at that level is unique, he has seen plenty at all levels that would be considered "good sportsmanship."
"Sign of integrity"
As a former BYU softball player and the current Timpview High School softball coach, Debbie Dodds has been involved in plenty of softball games, and though she's in awe of Holtman's actions, she still hopes most of the people she knows in the game would be of the same mind.
"I think that's the greatest act of sportsmanship. I can't believe a group of girls did that for an opponent. I think it's awesome. If I'm the girl that falls down, I would want them to carry me around. The game's supposed to be played like that," she said.
Dodds has been associated with games in her lengthy career where a home run was called wrong, and someone on the opposing team came in and told the umpire that it went over the fence. She says that it's a "sign of integrity."
And other softball coaches across the state agree that while they haven't had the opportunity to be involved in anything so unique and overwhelming, they have seen plenty of good sportsmanship during their playing and coaching days.
But it isn't just softball that brings out the good in people. The two biggest rivals in the state of Utah had the opportunity to show some truly solid support for one another at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in mid-June after BYU team members learned of the tragic death of freshman track member Chelsi Petersen. When they were trying to find some way to honor their fallen teammate while competing in their events, they received a surprise from Ute runner Chelsea Shapard.
Only two Utes were at the NCAAs, and Shapard also wanted to show support for her fallen competitor.
"People seem to gravitate towards her. She's very conscientious of other people and those around her. That's just Chelsea," said University of Utah track and field coach Kyle Kepler. "She's always leading the charge."
Shapard took charge by first putting a blue ribbon on herself and offering one to teammate Josefin Berg, who wore it proudly. But Shapard didn't stop there. She walked over to the BYU team and offered to give them some of her blue ribbon as well.
They had been trying to find a way to honor Petersen appropriately, and their biggest rival handed it to them with an offer of friendship and camaraderie after the tragedy.
Shapard finished 15th in the 400-meter hurdles after reaching out to the Cougars, a new personal best."Across the board, I think this is more of a women's thing, not that men don't do it, but it's more on the minds of women," Kepler said. "They want to be first-class."
Keeping spirits up
Athletes don't always have to show great sportsmanship in such public ways. More often than not, it's much more private when people do something good for someone else.
Last year at this time former Lone Peak volleyball player and current scholarship athlete for Idaho State University Paige Palmer was going through the most difficult time of her life. Her best friend and fiance, Jason Long, had cancer, and he was in the hospital fighting a losing battle for his life.
Not only did the Idaho State coaches allow her to take the season off, keeping her scholarship available for the next year and showing her support along the way, her old Lone Peak High School team did everything they could for their former teammate. She became an assistant coach for the Knights, though most of her hours were spent in the hospital trying to keep both her and Long's spirits up.
The team, led by setter Lacy Laycock and middle Ashton Grey, bought games for the two to play while sitting in the hospital. They dedicated their entire season to their assistant coach and former teammate and were there for her when, during the middle of the season, she lost the man she loved.
She traveled with the team to a tournament in Chicago just after the funeral, where the girls surrounded her with support and put pink wristbands around their wrists with an abbreviation meaning "Paige and Jason One Heart" printed on them.All of the girls talked not only about their run to the title after snatching their final victory, but they also kept Palmer in mind with every conversation they had.
Little things like visiting an opponent upon her return home from surgery to repair a torn ACL can mean so much to people. Though they'd never played on the same team with superstar Spanish Fork basketball player and future Utah Valley University player Jenna Johnson, Lone Peak's Amanda Farish and Davis' Dani Hosking were the first to visit her upon her return from the hospital, giving well-wishes to their rival.
Bingham coach Rand Rasmussen and Pleasant Grove coach Glenn Larsen worked things out so that an injured Bingham player could say she'd played in a state-tournament game by allowing her to stand in a corner for a few seconds during the contest. The Lone Peak boys basketball team got together just before Thanksgiving two years ago and decided to do a last-minute service project by cleaning up a large yard for one of their teammate's neighbors, who would have had a tough time doing it alone.
These types of things are happening behind the scenes every day in so many neighborhoods all around the state, the country and even the world. The athletes doing them aren't looking for recognition, they're just doing what comes naturally.Athletics is much more than winning, much more than scandal, and much more than numbers. Good works can't be tallied, but they are felt and felt in great numbers in so many unsung ways.
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