By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News & Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
It’s easy to lose sight of what sports are supposed to be about when confronted with the headlines we have seen over the past couple of weeks.
The most salacious headline of late surrounds the murder charges against ex-New England Patriots wide receiver Aaron Hernandez. There is no need to go into the details here as chances are you have read or heard about them ad nauseum. Suffice to say Hernandez, if the charges are proven in court, will be deservedly locked away from the rest of civilized society.
That is why this past week in Enid sports was so satisfying. It delivered a respite from the weary headlines, and a reminder of what is right about sports.
It started with the Enid High School cagers trying out their new basketball floor at the new Enid Event Center. The reaction of the players from both the Plainsmen and Pacers was not only that of universal approval, but a reminder of the fact sports can, and should, provide a positive outlet. The talk was about the impact the new arena would have on the team and what an actual home court meant. There were no caustic tones, no complaining.
That good feeling kept going later in the week when former EHS placekicker J.P. Maciel verbally committed after being offered a full scholarship to play football at Fort Hays State in Kansas. It came two years after he graduated from Enid.
Maciel’s perseverance should serve as inspiration to other athletes. After setting the Plainsmen kicking records in his only season of playing football in 2010, he had a football offer from Fort Hays, but also an offer to play soccer — he had set the Plainsmen single-season soccer scoring record that year — to attend Cowley College. After a year at Cowley he decided soccer was not for him, but football was his sporting passion.
Despite coming here from Brazil in 2005 with a soccer bloodline — his dad played professionally in Brazil — it was American football that got into his now-Americanized sports bloodstream, but after not playing football for a couple of years, he fell off the recruiting radar.
We told his story in June, about how the 3.50 GPA student just wanted somebody to take a chance on him, let him play football again. He showed us he still had a strong leg, booting 50-yarders at Selby Stadium in the sweltering June heat. After the story was published, he passed it around via social media and email and reminded Fort Hays too that he still was out there if they would take a chance on him again. He heard from a couple of other schools, but NCAA Division II Fort Hays still was his first choice
They answered and he showed he still had the leg, kicking a 55-yard field during his tryout. They offered again and he accepted.
And now it appears his dreams — he insists he will play professionally after college — are back on track.
Thankfully, there are dozens of J.P. Maciels for every Aaron Hernandez out there and it’s important we remember that.
There are far more positives to be celebrated in the world of sports, sometimes, even right here in our own backyard.
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.