Little things keep sports important

While spending some time in the bowling alley over the weekend, we were lucky enough to end up next to what appeared to be three generations of a family spending some quality time together.

Twin little boys were learning how to bowl while their parents snapped photos on their smart phones and their grandmother and other family members cheered them on.

One of the youngsters, I’m guessing they were 3 or 4 years old, released his bowling ball onto the lane. It rolled so slowly between the bumpers, we wondered if it would actually make it.

When the ball finally and clumsily clunked into the pins, only a couple reluctantly toppled over. The rake actually had to pull the ball into the pit to be returned to the awaiting little bowler, who, in spite of the meager score, was all smiles and excitement.

The half-hour or so that we witnessed included smiles and hugs, with very little worry about who scored how many or who won.

Also this weekend, while awaiting a Saturday night movie, we saw a preview for the movie, “42,” a biographical film due out this spring that tells the inspiring story of baseball legend Jackie Robinson.

As described on his plaque in the MLB?Hall of Fame, Robinson was a “player of extraordinary ability, renowned for his excellent style of play … led Brooklyn to six pennants and its only World Series title in 1955 and displayed tremendous courage and poise in 1947 when he integrated the modern major leagues in the face of intense adversity.”

It is the story of a true American sports hero, and a pioneer who changed the game of baseball, and changed the minds of many in our nation during the civil rights movement.

Last week’s national sports news was often dominated by the Lance Armstrong scandal and the Manti Te’o mystery. These are stories that could make fans and sportswriters alike wonder what has the world of sports come to, when we spend hours listening to news about an alleged cheater and an alleged scam involving two high-profile athletes.

There are moments when it is easy to be disgusted by some of the things in the sports world today. But then there are those moments that remind us of the joy we experience through athletics, and the way that the games we love are woven into the fabric of our families and our country, part of our history and our heritage.

With absolutely no interest in hearing any more from Armstrong, and not knowing what to think about the increasingly bizarre story of Te’o, and the seemingly never-ending string of scandals, it would be tempting to swear off following sports altogether.

But then comes the reminder of a legend whose impact surpassed baseball, making history, and the little boys learning to bowl with their family, making memories and the games we play and watch and love seem worth the trouble after all.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Her column appears on Tuesdays.