The coolest thing

March 24th, 2011

While taking in the NCAA Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena this past weekend, the guy behind me said the event was “the coolest thing he had ever seen in sports.”

I got to thinking what the coolest thing was that I’ve ever witnessed, and I realized I’ve been fortunate enough to see some pretty cool things.

While pondering, the famous quote from legendary UCLA head basketball coach John Wooden that “sports don’t build character, they reveal it” flashed across the jumbrotron.

With that in mind, I realized the coolest thing I’ve seen in sports wasn’t a walk-off shot by LeBron James or ‘Script Ohio’ at Ohio Stadium. It wasn’t the Indians clinching a playoff spot or the Browns simply finding a way to win a game.

The coolest thing I’ve seen in sports, hands down, was a friend overcoming a serious injury, one thought to be paralyzing, to walk again.

In my freshman year at Saint Ignatius High School, a kid I played summer basketball with and had known since seventh grade went down to make a tackle in a freshman football game and had his life changed forever. Doctors suggested his chances of walking again were bleak, but he never gave up.

He walked across the stage at high school graduation and onto the University of Notre Dame. He was home last week on Spring Break, and when we got together I realized just how far he has come since that terrible blow on Sept. 11, 2003.

I had back-to-back classes with him in high school and I used to carry his bookbag to our second class, and the image of him moving around campus with his walker, never once complaining, will stick with me forever.

To see where he was then and where he is now is inspiring to me and all who have known him over the years.

I loved watching the NCAA Tournament over the past couple of days, but the amount of superlatives thrown around is incredible.

The Butler/Pittsburgh game was a terrific game, but it wasn’t the “best game ever.” There were undoubtedly some bad officiating calls in the last week, but they weren’t the most catastrophic calls in the world.

I was bothered most when a commentator asked his partner if he had ever seen a kid fight so hard for something, referring to a player’s will to win a college basketball game.

I’ve seen a kid fight harder just to walk again after an injury. And that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in sports.

Contact Tim Ertle at