Something no child should have to go through
ORRVILLE -- Among the many sentences I never figured I'd type, how about this one? Manny Ramirez makes perfect sense.
Here's one I wish I never had to type: A young man, instead of getting ready to play the game he's always dreamed of, is fighting for his life.
Manny, of course, was "being Manny" when, with Boston down 3-1 to the Indians in the ALCS, said that the end result didn't matter.
"It's only a game," he said, and for that, he was laughed at, questioned, even vilified by people a lot smarter than myself.
This column was supposed to be about Wooster and Orrville's football rivalry. In a way, I guess, it still is.
But it's more about what is really important.
Like Josh Short.
Josh is 17 and a junior at Orrville High. As the starting center on the football team, he was supposed to spend Thursday night tossing and turning in his bed, wondering how the biggest game in his life would turn out.
Instead, Josh was rushed to Akron Children's Hospital on Tuesday. Wednesday morning, he was diagnosed with leukemia.
And, Thursday he started CHEMOTHERAPY.
GO THROUGH THAT, AND ALL OF A SUDDEN, THE WOOSTER-ORRVILLE GAME DOESN'T MEAN THAT MUCH.
ASK ORRVILLE HEAD COACH DOUG DAVAULT, A FATHER WITH CHILDREN OF HIS OWN.
WHEN YOU'RE A HEAD COACH -- AND THE HEAD FOOTBALL COACH IN A TIGHT-KNIT COMMUNITY LIKE ORRVILLE -- "YOU LOVE YOUR PLAYERS LIKE THEY WERE MY OWN KIDS."
DAVAULT TOLD ME THIS ON WEDNESDAY, WHICH TURNED INTO THE LONGEST, MOST TRYING DAY OF HIS LIFE.
LIKE ANY SANE, RATIONAL HUMAN BEING -- EVEN MANNY RAMIREZ -- DAVAULT HAD NO PROBLEM PUTTING A HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL GAME IN THE PROPER PERSPECTIVE.
AS A FATHER, HE HAS ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE. AS A COACH, STILL ANOTHER.
"YOU WANT TO FIX THINGS AND MAKE THEM RIGHT, AND IT'S IN THE HANDS OF OTHERS, AND YOU FEEL HELPLESS," DAVAULT SAID. "YOU'RE THERE FOR SUPPORT, AND TO DO WHAT YOU CAN TO HELP, BUT WE'VE GONE THROUGH THE WHOLE GAMUT HERE.
"YOU FEEL SORRY AND THERE'S TEARS, AND THEN YOU GET MAD AND WANT TO FIGHT, AND THEN, WHEN YOU THINK PRACTICALLY, YOU ASK WHAT DOES THE FAMILY NEED FROM US? ALL OF US WENT THROUGH THOSE PHASES IN LIKE A 10-TO-12-HOUR TIMEFRAME.
"YOU LOOK AT JOSH, AND YOU CAN'T HELP BUT THINK ABOUT EVERYTHING THIS KID, THIS YOUNG KID, IS GOING THROUGH AND GETTING READY TO GO THROUGH," DAVAULT ADDED. "YOU WONDER HOW YOU WOULD RESPOND."
JOSH'S PARENTS, LARRY AND KAREN, WANTED DAVAULT TO COME TO THE HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY ON TUESDAY NIGHT.
IT'S EVERY COACH'S -- AND PARENT'S -- NIGHTMARE.
BUT, WHEN A 17-YEAR-OLD RESPONDS THE WAY JOSH SHORT DID, WELL, AS A COACH, THOSE LESSONS YOU SO STRONGLY BELIEVE THAT SPORTS TEACH ABOUT HANDLING ADVERSITY, THE LESSONS YOU TRY TO TEACH EVERY DAY AND WONDER IF THE KIDS ARE EVEN PAYING ATTENTION, THE PROOF IS RIGHT THERE, LYING IN A HOSPITAL BED.
THAT'S DAVAULT'S PROOF -- LIVING PROOF.
SO, IS THE WOOSTER-ORRVILLE GAME IMPORTANT? YOU BET.
IS IT EVERYTHING? NOT CLOSE.
"IT'S JUST A GAME," DAVAULT SAID. "OBVIOUSLY, YOU WANT TO PLAY HARD AND YOU WANT TO WIN, BUT WHEN YOU GET DOWN TO IT, IT'S ENTERTAINMENT FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE, IT'S A LOT OF FUN TO BE IN, AND IT'S GREAT TO BE ABLE TO DO IT. THAT'S ALL IT REALLY IS.
"THEN, LIFE COMES BACK, THE REAL WORLD, AND THINGS HAPPEN. SOME ARE TOUGH TO TAKE."
ANY COACH, PARENT, FATHER OR FRIEND KNOWS THAT.
JOSH SHORT AND HIS FAMILY KNOW IT BETTER THAN THEY SHOULD HAVE TO.
SO, WHETHER YOU'RE IN RED AND WHITE OR BLUE AND GOLD TONIGHT, YOU SHOULD SAY A PRAYER FOR THE SHORTS.
AND, WHILE YOU TAKE A COUPLE OF HOURS TO CHEER ON YOUR FAVORITE TEAM, DON'T FORGET TO TAKE A MINUTE TO REFLECT ON WHAT REALLY MATTERS.