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STOVALL: When sports is bigger than sports

Gabriel Stovall covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers.

Gabriel Stovall covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers.

I said I didn’t want to see Kevin Ware’s injury.

I tried hard not to see it. Every time someone on ESPN or some other sports network began to talk about it, I hurriedly picked up my remote and flipped the channel just in case they decided to replay it.

Since I didn’t actually watch the game, I did decide to take to the Internet and find an article or two that could tell me about the injury without me having to watch it.

On every article I clicked, I took a quick, scrolling perusal of it to make sure some imbedded video clip of the injury wouldn’t automatically start playing against my will.

I was safe.

Then yesterday, while casually scrolling through my Facebook timeline, one of my friends messed me up. Under his written post asking for people to pray for a successful recovery for Ware, I saw the Louisville Cardinal, and former Rockdale County standout’s leg dangling with a piece of his bone sticking out.

The funny thing about it was now that I lost the battle of avoidance and finally got caught off guard and was looking at this grotesque image on my iPhone, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it.

I couldn’t imagine how it would feel to have my leg basically snap in half right under me.

I couldn’t fathom the pain he must’ve felt physically. It was tough to watch the Louisville players and coaches cringe, grimace and weep for their fallen teammate.

And then my almost two-year-old son ran by holding a kid-sized basketball, on his way to dunk it into his kid-sized hoop.

This made me think, without even trying, “I wonder how Kevin Ware’s parents felt?” Not just about the injury. That was a no-brainer. I know if it was my son laying out on the court with only one whole leg, I’d be trying my best to push through the stands to get to him.

I imagine many of you who are parents feel the same way. But my wonderings of the musings of Ware’s parents during that moment went beyond the mere thoughts of worry and sadness for their son.

I wonder how proud they were of the way he handled it? Even while laying flat on his back, Final Four aspirations put on pause, and basketball future now in serious question, Ware was still thinking of the bigger picture.

His team. And that’s a large part of what got Louisville through that game as they went on to defeat Duke by a sizable margin to punch its ticket to this weekend’s Final Four hosted in Atlanta.

All Ware spoke about was how he wanted them to, in essence, forget about him and concentrate on winning the game. And in turn, his attitude caused a reciprocation from his team.

All the Cardinals wanted to do was win so they could get Ware back home to Atlanta. In the moment, it seemed as though that goal meant more than the possibility of playing for a national championship.

I can imagine Ware’s parents had to be proud of how their son persevered and how his presence on the team was powerful enough to cause Louisville to use him as the cause to rally around.

It just speaks, once again, to the power of sports in real life situations. When it is considered as more than just a means to the end of becoming rich or winning championship trophies and rings, sports can be one of the greatest instructors in life’s classroom that a young man or woman can have.

I’ll be rooting for Louisville this weekend in Atlanta. Not because I picked them in my bracket — I actually have Michigan winning it all. Not because I particularly like coach Rick Pitino or the Cardinals’ basketball program.

I’ll be rooting for the same reason why I root for every single athlete I see and cover in Clayton County. I’ll be rooting because I love to see the power of a team can change — for the better — the course of a young person’s life.

You can bet that Louisville won’t just be playing for trophies and rings anymore. Thanks to Kevin Ware, they’ll be leaving it all out there on the court for something greater than victory.

Each other.

Gabriel Stovall covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He can be reached at gstovall@news-daily.com.