Using football to lift up others

Football is such serious business in Texas that it is major news when someone puts helping other human beings above such worldly things and uses the game to accomplish a good deed.

In today's world of college and professional football, athletes are heralded as heroes and, often, as role models. Those who aren't good role models frequently get more headlines and broadcast time than those who make contributions to the welfare of others.

A very unselfish act happened in the 2008 high school football season and the initiator didn't plan for it to gain the spotlight but rather to just uplift some less fortunate souls. And, the event didn't get much attention until some people began an email campaign to illuminate the deed.

It came to my attention in January but it is worthwhile to resurrect and lift up this wonderful act just prior to the beginning of the 2009 season so maybe some of us will not lose focus on what is really important in our life.

On Nov. 7, 2008, Grapevine Christian School was host to Gainesville State School, a juvenile correctional facility.

Before that game, Grapevine coach Kris Hogan emailed parents of his players and asked them to sit in the stands on Gainesville's side and cheer for them. Hogan went full bore with the plan by also asking these "volunteer fans" to create a spirit line for these opposing players, who normally have no fans to cheer for them, to run through before the game. He even had copies of the Gainesville State School roster distributed to fans so they could cheer players by name.

Apparently someone leaked word of the gesture to the Dallas Fort Worth NBC-TV affiliate, which videoed the activity of the fans and interviewed GSS kids after the game about what it meant to them. The video is a very well done, touching and emotional piece and can be found on this link — spor ts/football/A _Game _of_ Hope_Dallas-Fort_Worth.html.

Grapevine Christian School won the game 31-14 but you'd never know it by watching the GSS players being interviewed after the game. They were smiling, optimistic and upbeat, maybe for one of the few times in their lives. And, maybe just a little overwhelmed. Those parents and fans from Grapevine Christian were elated and enthused that they'd played a role in lifting up some young men whose lives had heretofore been filled with little optimism or good deeds.

Hogan's thought f ul, car ing action deserves more attention than it got and certainly more than he wanted for it. "I didn't expect it to get outside the school. It kind of saddens me that it got so much attention. We should all be used to people taking advantage of an opportunity to help another human life."

This wonderful gesture could probably only happen at the high school level. If it was at the college or pro level, there would be a lot of hype and headlines building up to the event because, after all, some promoter would see it as a way to increase attendance and/or on air viewing and, naturally, a way to "build the gate" and the take.

Today's college and pro athletes should take a page out of former National Basketball Association all-time great, Charles Barkley. In an interview years ago, when asked if youngsters should look upon him as a role model, Barkley was quick to point out, "On the basketball court, yes. In life, no. Your role models should be your parents."

Hogan apparently succeeded well beyond his dreams in inspiring his fans as to what life and life's games should really be about. His hopes for helping other human beings, namely the young men from the juvenile correctional facility, were realized in a big way. Perhaps they were touched in such a way as to seek a better life on a straighter, narrower path after exiting GSS.

That success in Grapevine can be extended into the 2009 season and beyond if every high school football fan in the Lone Star State takes the lesson and inspiration to heart and seeks avenues through the game for helping others.

Such exaltation can far exceed anything else we might ever do in the name of football.

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2009-08-27 digital edition

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