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SPORTS: Feel-good sports stories are out there-just look

September 10, 2007

No question about it, the feel-good that sport can create has taken a beating this summer.

There was Barry Bonds breaking the Major League homerun record under the strong suspicion of steroid use, NFL star Michael Vick's guilty plea on federal dogfighting charges, the betting scandal involving NBA referee Tim Donaghy, and the revelation of match-fixing in professional tennis.

Just to name a few. It could really get you down if you let it. Yet, I've written this before-sport provides the best reality show going. And there's been some positive reality lately.

How about the youngster from Georgia who hit the extra-inning, walk-off home run that gave his team the Little League World Series championship over the team from Japan?

Asked what he thought as he was circling the bases, 12-year-old Dalton Carriker said, "I felt like I was flying, like Peter Pan."

Out of the mouths of babes.

Barely hours after being called up from the minor leagues, Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz threw a no-hitter in just his second major-league start.

"I'm in a blur right now," Buchholz said.

Maybe he felt like Peter Pan, too.

Cubs fans are all in a lather because their Cubbies are hanging on to a slim lead in the National League Central. And it's September. Could this be the year? Or could there be another Steve Bartman-style moment of fate awaiting? In either case, each game brings with it delicious anticipation.

Watching golf last weekend at the Deutsch Bank event provided the opportunity to witness the world's two best players, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, go head to head. This is golf's equivalent of Bird versus Magic. This time, Lefty won, but it was great theater as the two hit great shot after great shot.

Equally admirable, however, was a scene played out early in the round. On the second hole, third-round leader Brett Wetterich hit his ball into a hazard. No one could tell where his ball had crossed the hazard line. A favorable interpretation might have allowed Wetterich to escape with a par, bogey at worse. It was strictly his decision. But because there was doubt, Wetterich did the honorable thing and retreated to the other side of the hazard to hit his next shot. He ended up making double bogey. And, oh, he went on to finish second by one shot. But he did the right thing.

If only all of sport-and sportsmen and sportswomen-could adhere so nobly to the rules.

On the first Saturday of September, Division I-AA Appalachian State University walked into the Big House at Michigan and emerged not only ruining the Wolverines' day, but their season, with a 34-32 victory. Pundits called it the biggest upset in college football history, perhaps in all of sports history.

It demonstrates why I like college football so much. The national championship playoff-yes, playoff -begins on the first Saturday in September and even a powerhouse program such as the University of Michigan can be eliminated on that day.

At Virginia Tech, a football game marked the ongoing mourning over a campus tragedy and the continuation of the healing process. When the game began, the opponents from East Carolina battled the heavily favored Huskies all the way before losing. But when it was over, both teams knelt in prayer at midfield. Now that was a wonderful moment.

Locally, the Indiana Fever logged two inspirational comebacks. The first was Tamika Catchings' comeback from a foot injury that caused her to miss the last half of the season. She played as if she hadn't missed a game. Then the Fever staged the biggest comeback in WNBA playoff history to eliminate Connecticut and advance to the Eastern Conference finals. By doing so, they made many care for the first time about women's professional basketball in this community. While their championship hopes disappeared when Catchings heartbreakingly tore her Achilles tendon in the decisive game at Detroit, let's hope the light of media illumination finally focused on this team will attract fans in greater numbers next year. At the very least, let's hope Catchings returns to play-and inspire-again.

And then we had Sept. 6, when a championship banner was raised in the RCA Dome and a Colts team that embodies the positive qualities of its leader, Tony Dungy, took the field for a new season.

Sport always delivers. And more good than bad.



Benner is associate director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly.To comment on this column,go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to bbenner@ibj.com. Benner also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.
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