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JOHN MARX: Special Olympians showed us the way it should be done

JOHN MARX: Special Olympians showed us the way it should be done

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I went to a basketball game on a recent night, and goodness, love and respect broke out.

For 10 glorious minutes — 600 hundred amazing seconds — on Friday past, 2,000 of us were treated to the perfect life lesson from the athletes on the court.

At halftime of the Moline-Rock Island basketball game, Special Olympian basketball squads from Rock Island and Moline made the walls of Rock Island Fieldhouse shake.

They caused a few tears to roll down some cheeks as well.

The score? Who knows? Who cares?

I can tell you the state-bound Moline group that beat Rock Island recently in the Sectional final at Byron put the biscuit in the basket a few more times than Rock Island players did.

But a final count?

It wasn't about that. It was more, much, much more.

The athletes on the floor, kids who have struggles most of us never come close to facing or understanding, wowed us. They ran; they jumped; they shot; they scored — and they looked as if they were having the time of their lives getting to do something some young people take for granted.

They were inspiring.

They allowed the crowd to enjoy for those 10 minutes the beauty of kids having fun and being involved. I saw determined eyes, wide grins and appreciative hearts.

I can tell you no player harbored any ill will toward another, spewed on social media before or after the game, pointed to the crowd to be quiet after a shot was made, or punched an opponent.

No, these two sides left it all on the court. They were gracious to their teammates and grateful to the crowd.

The crowd, it must be noted, jumped to its feet for the first three-pointer by Rock Island's Drew DeMarlie and stayed on its feet to the last layup up made by the Maroons' DeShaun Smith. The crowd crazily cheered each successful shot and groaned with every miss. Fans — student sections especially — were appreciative of what was happening before them.

I was proud of you all.

With three minutes on the clock, the varsity squads from Moline and Rock Island jumped into the mix, high-fiving Special Olympians, dancing wildly after a score and moaning frustration after any miss. Coaches from both sides worked into the fray as well, their smiles erasing — for a short time — the tension created by a close game between longtime rivals.

When the contest finished, the crowd stayed on its feet. People seemed to understand the significance of mainstreaming special-needs students: Life is hard enough for them, and the support shown would go miles with each player. The Special Olympians did not want pity; they wanted only to be appreciated for their efforts.

And they were.

The post-game handshake, filled with hugs and high-fives, with Special Olympians and varsity players sharing the moment as one group, was something to be saved and shown to athletes, coaches, parents, administrators and politicians everywhere.

Take a page, people. Me, especially.

Thank you, Brendan Anderson, Nathanial Anderson, Breckin Hanson, Sean Johnson, Dulce Lule, Liz Meeks, DaShaun Smith, Christy Wright, Megan Woods and Megan Mierzwa from Moline; and Drew DeMarlie, Drake Lowry, Ryan Holtan,  Salvator Niyimbona, Kyle Mata, Kaba Sakho, Messiah Muhammad Ali, Frank Holmes, Cameron Heaton, Colin Benisch, Shawn Gingry (he had a previous commitment, but he was with his team in spirit), Fred Venable and Kiowa Dove from Rock Island. You showed us the way things should be.

Columnist John Marx can be reached at 309-757-8388 or jmarx@qconline.com.

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