Heart of a Champion
By Rita Kaye Nearor
This time of the year the sports section of most any newspaper circulated throughout the United States is blanketed with heroic stories of football. Words like “pounded”, “defeated”, and “win” are prominent in headlines in this grid-iron glorified country. In the South, you are guaranteed to strike up a conversation with a total stranger if the topic is football. As important as football is in any Southern home, winning is just as important. Sure we say, “It’s not who wins or loses, but how you play the game.” Well, we all know that’s a lie. If winning wasn’t important, why keep score? I’ve also heard, “We stand behind our team win, lose, or draw.” Again, that’s another lie. The research would back me up, but I prefer personal observation. I have witnessed ticket sales and booster support drop during and after a losing season.
If fans are so fair-weathered and hearts are won or lost by the number of victories a team, coach, or player can claim: why do it? Play, I mean. I had to know. Fortunately, I knew just the young man to ask, Kn’yn Jones-#7, for the Red Level Tigers. Kn’yn is a senior this year. He would like to play football at the college level. However, Kn’yn has the odds stacked against him. You see, Kn’yn is from a very small 1-A school in a rural part of South Alabama. This already cuts into his chances of being recruited, but to make things worse Kn’yn’s Tigers haven’t won a game in two and a half years. That’s right; they are on a twenty-one game losing streak. Please don’t misunderstand. Kn’yn is a very tenacious player. As an outside linebacker, he averages 9 tackles per game. He also fulfills the position of fullback.
I interviewed Kn’yn recently searching for answers to my questions. When I asked him, “After so many losses, how do you do it? How do you manage to go out on that field and play your heart out every Friday night?” He responded by telling me that he has always loved the game, even way back to his youth league games. Kn’yn went on to say that if you’re not going to give it your all, you shouldn’t even step onto the field. We talked for some time about bandwagons and fair-weather fans, and I asked for his opinion on them. He replied, “If I go out there and give it (the game) everything I have, my heart and my mind are satisfied. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get disappointed with myself and for the fans. We all want to win. I made a commitment to my team, my coach, and myself. Being part of a team is about responsibility and accountability.”
Kn’yn ended our interview leaving me to ponder on these words, “It is harder to lose, but I have learned more from losing than I ever would have by winning. I’ve learned true sportsmanship, discipline, faith, trust, commitment, understanding, but most important of all, love…and that is why I do it.”