Nick Ahad: Watch Mitchell’s magic moment and restore your sporting faith
With one hand, it gave me a certain amount of confidence, with the other, it took away my ability to deal calmly with figures of authority.
Really, put me in front of someone in a position of power and I go to pot as sure as if I was 15 again and standing in front of one of the psychotic masters I had to contend with at school, the sort that meted out the kind of punishment that appears to be a speciality in boys only private schools.
While my education made me afeared of authority, it did give me a healthy respect for it. Paradox, I know, but I actually am sort of pleased that I learnt to respect authority. I would rather have not learnt it to such an extreme degree and I would have preferred to learn it somewhere other than at the wrong end of a gym pump or well aimed blackboard rubber, but I would rather that than the alternative.
Now, look, before we go any further: I am not the sort of person that writes letters to The Daily Telegraph about the behaviour of ‘youth today’. I don’t comment on The Daily Mail website, in support of their ludicrous hate-mongering articles.
I am a proud liberal. It is important to share this because you might think, incorrectly, otherwise about me in about 300 words from now.
The reason I am glad I respect authority is because I see all around me an enormous disrespect for it. On the cricket pitch, where my enthusiasm is to my talent as Mount Olympus is to a molehill, I once lost my cool with an umpire. I was the victim of an LBW decision that was as dubious as a cut-price beefburger.
I looked up at the umpire, tutted loudly and stood there shaking my head for a good 10 seconds before dragging my bat and myself from the field of play.
Appalling, I know.
But the behaviour of some people I have witnessed on a cricket pitch, actually arguing with an umpire, not saying please or thank you when taking a guard, refusing to walk – it genuinely beggars belief that people act like that towards the man in white, who is in charge of the game. Respect for authority? Not so much.
The fact that I do not behave in such a way is down to having been scared into respecting authority as a schoolboy does not really matter – that I respect authority is the salient point.
I think it is really important. Good manners, politeness, respect for authority and essentially doing the right thing – these should be the measure of a man.
If ‘doing the right thing’ is the most important of these (it is) as the measure of what makes a man, then Jonathon Montanez is going to turn into one seriously fine young man.
Jonathan is a teenager in America who plays for his school’s basketball team, Franklin High School in Texas. A couple of weeks ago, his team was playing Coronado High School. The coach at Coronado, Peter Morales, has an assistant coach, Mitchell Marcus, an 18-year-old who loves basketball. Mitchell has learning difficulties and while he loves basketball, does not have the facility to play at high school standard. So he has spent several years as Mr Morales’s assistant coach – Mitchell is just happy to be involved.
At the last game of the season, earlier this month, Mr Morales made a decision. Whatever the state of the game, win or lose, Mitchell had earned his chance. He was told to suit up and he was going to play in the game and his team-mates were going to do all they could to get the ball in Mitchell’s hands and help him score a basket.
The story began to play itself out. The season final came, Coronado had a healthy lead with a minute of the game to go, Mitchell was sent in.
He kept getting the ball, Mitchell kept missing the basket. It looked like there would be no fairytale ending, but it did not matter – Mitchell had pulled on his high school’s jersey and he had stood on the court during a game. His dream had come true.
Then Jonathan Montanez made a decision that will reverberate for some time.
He had the ball for a throw in. He called out to Mitchell, the man on the opposition, who was hanging underneath the basket.
Montanez passed the ball to Mitchell. Mitchell, initially confused, eventually turned and shot the ball. He scored the final point of the game with barely a second left on the clock.
Everyone in the school gymnasium flooded on to the court and held Mitchell aloft. The word extraordinary might have been created for the moment and the word sportsmanship been coined to describe the actions of Jonathan Montanez.
“I was raised to treat others how you want to be treated. I just thought Mitchell deserved his chance,” said Jonathan.
Apparently, when Jonathan passed the ball to Mitchell, he also said to him: “Shoot it. It’s your time.”
Sport Monday readers, I am delighted this is a newspaper and not some new technologically advanced format where you can see me as I type.
I’m in bits. So will you be if you Google the names above, find and watch the video of Mitchell’s magic moment.
We live in a world where over-paid, over-pampered sports stars appear to have forgotten entirely that they should love and respect the games they play that give them such wealth. We live in a world where respect for authority and doing the right thing are considered anachronistic values.
Fortunately, we also live in a world where young men like Jonathan Montanez make the right call sometimes, and demonstrate the power of a decision. The video of the special moment Jonathan and Mitchell share has gone viral, so you should be able to find it easily enough. Watch it and be reminded of the special power of sport and that sometimes within sport we can, if we do the right thing, be reminded of our humanity.
and another thing...
As I’ve outed myself as a big Jessie (I really was in floods of tears writing the column that stands alongside) I might as well go the whole hog.
Here is something you do not know about me: I cry at sporting events at the drop of a hat.
Remember in 2005, Edgbaston, the dying moments of the game when Harmison (the good version) had Kasprowicz caught by wicketkeeper Jones fending a ball down the leg side? I do.
I was standing on the end of my bed, the curtains drawn, the heat blazing, as Harmison ran in.
When Jones pouched the difficult catch, I was lying on the end of my bed, tears streaked down my face, crying like a new-born babe.
When Jess Ennis took to the podium, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they heard my sobs in the Olympic village from my home in Bradford.
There is something so raw and visceral about sport that it accesses something deep inside us that the only reaction you can have is one of totally uncontrolled emotion.
It’s liberating, frankly.
I know that a lot of you are big ‘ard men. Embrace the tears next time your team scores a last-minute winner, or triumphs in the face of adversity.
It is what sport is for.