The Shot Heard ‘Round the World’

Shooting a basket
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Faith In Humanity CBS Video

The title of the short CBS report caught my eye: ‘Faith in Humanity Restored’. As one who is always looking to restore my faith in humanity, I thought it was well worth the few minutes it took to watch. And, at least at first, I was not disappointed.

You may have caught the same report. It told of a final-basketball-game-of-the-season between two high school teams. What made the story compelling was that one of the teams had added to its roster Robert, a developmentally challenged player. The video showed how his team repeatedly passed him the ball hoping to have him make a basket. However – this was reality after all and not Hollywood – Robert repeatedly missed the shot. On his team’s final possession he again was passed the ball, but the ball glanced off his fingers and went out of bounds. An audible moan could be heard throughout the crowd. Robert would not make a basket in his final game.

An Inspiring Act Of Kindness

But, then, in the words of his coach, something completely and utterly unexpected happened. As the opposing team’s player was about to inbound the ball he did not pass it to his own team. Rather, in what was called one of the most inspiring turnovers in history, he called out Robert’s name and he passed him the ball instead. Robert – O.K. life does imitate Hollywood – made the shot. The crowd erupted in the type of cheers usually reserved for the NBA finals. Robert was lifted on his team’s shoulders and carried off the court. The player who ‘turned the ball over’ was interviewed by a reporter who marveled at his unselfish and caring behavior. Truly an act worthy of note.

Faith in humanity duly restored.

Or is there something wrong here?

Selflessness & Sacrifice, Or A Meaningless Pass?

Excuse me for playing the spoiler here, and let me know if I’m wrong (my wife is not at home) but there was something the reporter said at the end of his interview which ruined the moment for me.

He mentioned that by the end of the game 15 points separated the two teams. The inbound pass had no bearing whatsoever on the outcome of the game. True, the opposing player added a turnover to his team’s stats, but what did he really sacrifice? Nothing at all. I’m afraid the restoring of my faith in humanity will have to wait for next season.

The attention given to this story and what it says about our schools (and society as a whole) actually troubles me. If the game had been on the line, and the two points that Robert scored had resulted in a loss for the opposing team, I would understand our joy at seeing someone place kindness over winning. But what did we see here? Someone place kindness over a meaningless pass to his own team. Why does this impress us?

True Moral Courage

Perhaps we have lowered the bar of moral expectations to the extent that even meager offerings are lauded. Have we reached the point where not acting like a selfish, self-centered boor, gets you national recognition and a CBS interview? If this restores your faith in humanity, I shudder to think of your opinion of the human race.

As educators, we must aim higher. As mentioned in my State of the Heart blog post, we must tell the stories of real moral courage and selfless sacrifice. We must teach and model for our students not only what it means to give to others, but more importantly, what it means to give up for others. That’s the humanity I want to have faith in.

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