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Up To Date

Commentary: Let There Be Light

As the old cliché goes, it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. Yet sometimes, as fans know, sports is about much more than just the game. Commentator Victor Wishna sheds a little light…in this year-end edition of “A Fan’s Notes.”

My friends, we are living in dark times.

I only mean that literally. As we count down to the winter solstice this week, each day is briefer than the last. Darkness arrives early and often.

It’s no wonder, then, that ’tis the season when many traditions, whether by candle or uncoiled cord of colored bulbs, try to cast some light. With that in mind, for the last Fan’s Notes of 2019, I thought I’d share a few sparks—moments of light that might have gone unnoticed this year, that may seem to have nothing to do with the perception of sports, and yet are what it’s all about.

For example, when you watch the Chiefs game this Sunday, and the camera zooms in on quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ golden right arm, look closely. You’ll see more than a handful of colorful, rubber bracelets—each one a tribute to a different child battling a rare form of cancer, or another debilitating illness or injury. It’s not just wrist-service. Last month, Mahomes’ newly formed foundation, 15 and the Mahomies—that is really what it’s called—presented 15 checks to 15 children’s charities for $15,000 each.

On the other side of the state, the St. Louis Blues made their first Stanley Cup in franchise history even more meaningful by dedicating it to Laila Anderson, an 11-year-old superfan who suffers from a rare auto-immune disease. She was there to raise the cup following the Blues’ game-seven win. And after the team inscribed “Laila” on their diamond-coated championship rings, they showed up at her house to give her one of her very own.

Sure, superstars bearing gifts will garner headlines. But you probably haven’t read or heard much about Ann Murphy, a Kansas City police officer and former college soccer player who founded her own FC—that’s football club—to keep teens off the street and out of trouble. In just a few years, she has coached and mentored hundreds of kids, and also set them up with weekly tutoring sessions, campus visits, and college scholarships. Next month, United Soccer Coaches will honor her with its award for extraordinary achievement beyond the sport.

Then there’s the story of Mya Kretzer of McPherson, Kansas. For four years, she fought to make girls’ wrestling an official high-school sport, grappling against a mindset—decades after Title IX—that still questions if women and girls can or should contend for the same glory. In April, weeks before Kretzer graduated, the high-school activities association voted overwhelmingly to make Kansas the fifteenth state to recognize a championship in girls’ wrestling.

Because it’s not whether you win or lose, but whether you get to compete at all.

As she told The Washington Post, “with your wins and losses, you get to reflect and try to develop yourself into something better. The struggles in wrestling help you with the struggles outside of wrestling.”

To me, knowing what’s most valuable is the mark of any MVP.

“I love this game,” Patrick Mahomes told The Kansas City Star. “And I want to put everything I have into it. But there are bigger things in this world other than just the game of football.”

On Sunday, the sun will set on the shortest day of the year, the first night of Hanukkah—and Christmas week—will begin, and the Chiefs and Bears will kick off at Soldier Field. So whatever your traditions, here’s wishing you a season of joy—and a postseason of laughter and love and light.

And may all your games be merry and bright.

Victor Wishna is a contributing author and commentator for Up to Date.