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True Sportsmanship    Saving Lives

True Sportsmanship

Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon University took a mighty cut and lofted her first high school/college homerun over the centerfield fence. She was a senior and it was likely that it would be her last home run as well. She was not a power hitter.

As she rounded first, she realized in her glee that she missed the base. She stopped and turned to tag the bag, so she would not be called out. A sharp pain in her knee brought her to the ground. She crawled back to first, but could not finish the victory trot around the bases.

Her coach called time out. The umpire said that she would have to either make it around all the bases or she would be officially given a single, disqualifying Sara's one and only home run. By rule, if any of Tucholsky's Teammates helped her, she would be called out.

To everyone's surprise, the opponent's first baseman, Mallory Holtman, asked the umpire if the opposing players could assist Tucholsky around the bases. The umpire said there was no rule against it. Holtman, homerun leader in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, and her teammate, shortstop Liz Wallace, carried Tucholsky around the bases, allowing her to touch each base with her uninjured toe, before preceding to the next.

By the time they reached home plate the entire Western Oregon team was in tears, as were most of the spectators in the stands. It cost Central Washington the game and ended their chances of advancing to the playoffs. But, it was the right thing to do.

No one will remember who won the tournament or the conference. Few of us will ever be devoted fans of Central Washington or Western Oregon, but few will forget the sportsmanship, camaraderie amongst competitors or just the good feeling that comes from doing what is right.

Saving Lives

My wife, son and I were bouncing along wind roughened waters in a rented power boat on Lake Pleasant near Phoenix. We don't get to see our son as often as we like, as he lives hundreds of miles from home. We rented the boat to have a memorable day, even though the wind was whipping and the water was full of whitecaps. The day would become more memorable than we could possibly imagine.

We noticed a boat floating near shore. We were still hundreds of yards away, but could see the people inside the boat anxiously waving a red flag, normally a warning to other boaters that a water skier is down. They were confused and didn't seem to know how to restart their stalled vessel.

Even at that distance we could see they were frantic. The water was too rough and cold for casual skiers and the boat was too near hidden sand bars for experienced boaters. I pointed our bow toward the becalmed boat and shoved the throttle forward.

As we neared, we could see two men in the water approximately 25 yards from their boat. Both were obviously tired and scared, drifting further and further from their craft. The looks on their faces told us everything we needed to know. They were in serious trouble. The better swimmer of the two was trying to hold the other man's head above water, but he was running on empty. Neither man was wearing safety equipment.

My son, Matt, grabbed two life vests and jumped overboard, delivering life saving equipment to the desperate pair. The man in greatest danger was barely able to hold onto the vest in the frigid water, but hold on he did. We swung the boat around, killed the engine so the propeller would not harm either my son or the men in the water. Matt climbed back into the boat and pulled both of them aboard.

We took them back to their boat, where they safely re-boarded. We shook their hands and left, never knowing who they were or how it all got started. They fired up their engine and made it back to shore. They never even got our son's name and wouldn't know how to thankfully contact him, but in our hearts, we knew that someone's brother or father or son was going to live beyond that day. Shivering all the way back to the docks, that knowledge was Matt's only reward.

No one else saw what Matt did. There were no bands playing or mayors offering keys to the city, nor were any of those a thought in his mind when he jumped into icy water to save two men on the verge of drowning. No one, outside those who read this story, will fathom his desire to help or save others. And he did it without thought for his own safety, without wondering whether or not it was worth his time or effort. He did it with the sole intent of helping someone else. That is what makes a good man.

Like the rest of us, he's made mistakes, but that is not the measure of a man. We all make mistakes. The true measure of human worth is what we do when no one is looking. When surrounded by peers or police, we all toe the line. What we do when only God can see makes us who we really are.

Matt, much to his mother's chagrin, likes motorcycles and spends much of his spare time alternately riding and fixing them. Age and experience will teach him that no one, including him, will remember how fast he rode or how high he jumped, but there are two men, two families, who will never forget him, even if they don't know his name.