This was posted as a Fan Shot, and rightfully so, but after reading it I felt it should get a bit more attention. We are all Denver Broncos fans, through and through, and as a father I understand that sports are just that - sports. They can have a profound effect on lives, however, and at times those effects can help a child going through a tough time.
Rick Reilly, the former longtime Sports Illustrated columnist, now works for ESPN. He writes a weekly piece that usually tries to look at the other side of sports, the personal side. He has done stories about Broncos before, most recently about Jay Cutler's battle with diabetes. His story this week, however, about John Elway deserves special mention. You can read it -- HERE -- but I have copied a portion after the jump as well. It is worth every minute you take to read it.
While doing so, remember that while winning and losing is fun to talk about this is only a game. Life is what is important and getting further example that the guys we cheer for so loudly on Sunday are better men Monday through Saturday makes me feel better than any touchdown.
As locals, Cynthia and I took them to lunch at one of Elway's restaurants so Jake could see all the jerseys and photos. The kid was so excited he hardly ate. And that was before a certain Hall of Fame QB walked in, all keg-chested and pigeon-toed. Immediately, Jake turned into an ice sculpture.
We introduced them, and it took a few seconds before Jake could even stick out his hand. Apparently, 13-year-olds are not used to meeting gods.
Elway took the time to sign Jake's football and pose for a picture. He even made us all go outside, where the light was better. Then, as we said good-bye—Jake's feet floating a foot off the ground—Elway turned and said, out of nowhere, "Hey, why don't you guys come by the box today?"
And the next thing Jake knew, he was in John Elway's box, asking him any question he wanted, all with a grin that threatened to split his happy head in half.
Then Elway said, "Comin' to dinner?"
And suddenly Jake was having his lettuce wedge cut for him by the legend, who tousled the kid's cowlick. Like a dad might.
Halfway through the night, a guy came out of the bathroom and said, "Are you guys with that kid? Because he's in there talking to his mom on the phone, crying. Is he okay?"
Yes, Jake would be okay.
"Jake came back a changed boy," his mom says. He started climbing out of that hole. He started making A's again. Started loving football again. He told his mom, "When I make it to the NFL, I'm going to buy you a big house in Denver so you can come to my games."
And I ask myself: Why did Elway do all that? Maybe because his late father, Jack, was his best friend too? Maybe because his own son, Jack, went away to college last fall? Or maybe because that's how he is. In my 26 years of knowing him, I've never seen him turn down an autograph request, a picture request, a Can-I-just-tell-you-something? request.
A lot of athletes don't want the burden that comes with being a role model. But what I want to tell them is: You don't get to choose. You don't get to tell 13-year-old boys with holes in their hearts who can help them heal.
I know it's a hassle, but it matters. Because you never know when you might just lead a kid out to where the light is better.
John Elway was a legend on the field and even more so a great man off it. We'll never know the impact John's touch had on this young boy, but the fact Elway took the time speaks volumes.