It was a week dominated by images of a storm that besieged the East Coast, causing billions of dollars in damage and claiming dozens of lives. When Hurricane Sandy wasn't front and center, we had talking points from the campaign trail, where the two presidential candidates reminded us just how politically fractured and polarized the nation had become.
Even youth and high schools sports didn't provide their usual respite. Perhaps foreshadowing the legal challenges to come in a swing state central to the election, judges in Ohio intervened in determining which teams would get to go to the state playoffs. Meanwhile, youth football coaches were arrested for robbing a pizza place hosting their team party in California and, in Florida, charged with betting on pee wee games.
After a week like this, it's fair to say we could all use "a little good news."
Johnson is a developmentally disabled sophomore at Queen Creek. Because of a birth defect known as microcephaly, she has roughly third-grade level cognition, making her an easy target for bullies. Earlier this year, she was being harassed — pushed around, called names, the whole nine. Her mom, Liz, asked the school's starting quarterback, Carson Jones, to keep tabs on who was responsible for the harassment, but Jones took things one step further, taking Johnson under his wing and enlisting his teammates to do the same.
They invited her to sit with them at lunch. They escorted her to class. They kept her safe, and they kept her happy.
The story is, of course, inspiring, and Reilly takes just the right tone in telling it. But at a time when bullying and hazing are front and center in high schools around the country, the Queen Creek players' simple act of kindness hopefully speaks to something larger.
While two stories do not a trend make, Johnson's tale does come on the heels of a Dallas Morning News article about football-crazy Plano West (Texas) electing two Down syndrome teenagers as homecoming king and queen. The couple is extremely popular and their coronation was by no means a charity case. But it speaks to a kindness and an openness too often missing from the world — in sports or otherwise.
As Reilly points out, this is how it should be: "In a great society, our most gifted take care of our least." On Friday night, Queen Creek (11-0) dispatched Agua Fria (Avondale) 63-27 to advance to the Division III state quarterfinals. And Johnson was every bit a part of the victory as the players on the team.
The Sandy Effect
The "super storm" that swept up the East Coast starting last weekend caused numerous cancellations and hardships for high school sports teams. New Jersey and New York City were particularly hard hit by Sandy, and the recovery will be both costly and time-consuming. Sports are of course secondary to these concerns, as evidenced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to cancel the New York City Marathon. But they are also crucial to restoring normalcy and piece of mind.
We asked Jersey football players how the storm had affected them, and they took to Twitter to count the ways. The tweets ranged from the hilarious ("I even #Miss #FOOTBALL #PRACTICE") to the terrifying ("welp my whole street just caught on fire"), and all provided an insight into how the storm was affecting high school football players.
The two teams in the USA Today Super 25 perhaps most affected by the storm both played — and prevailed — Friday night. No. 1 Manatee (Bradenton, Fla.) took down Sarasota 51-9 to claim a district crown, while No. 15 St. Joe's Prep of Philadelphia prevailed 29-6.
Do you have a Sandy story? Tell us.