View from the Sidelines

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Rodney Harwood

You know the old cliché, “Money talks and suckers walk.” That goes for athletic talent too.

I see where the Cincinnati Bengals drafted troubled Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who is notably known for punching a female student in the face three years ago. I’m not saying that if ya tell one lie, no one should ever believe another word you say. Second chances are golden, but apparently need-to-win supersedes accountability in the NFL. The rest of us live to a higher standard, cheat on a test, lie on a job application, commit a fraudulent business transaction, it eventually comes back on you.

That’s the thing I like about the people I meet in my travels across the Columbia Basin, they’re good people, making an honest living and doing right by their community.

It also reminds me of a story I wrote a few years back where a young man, a kid really, from Gillette, Wyo., showed us all how to live. He did the right thing because it was the right thing to do, and touched many lives in a good way.

Deric Johnson was a 14-year-old boy who wrestled for the local wrestling club. The Sage Valley Junior High seventh-grader made a decision to let an opponent with Down syndrome win. Joey Pinkerton of Douglas, Wyo., was a high functioning guy on the Douglas team, but had never won a wrestling match no matter how hard he tried because his thought processing didn’t allow him to react fast enough. The other kids saw him as an easy mark and an easy win.

Johnson made a conscious decision to let him taste the thrill of victory at least once. “I made him wrestle,” Deric told me. “I made him work for it, but when it was all over, the look of amazement in his eyes made it worth it.”

The story went viral on The Associated Press wire, ran in newspapers and websites in New York, Jacksonville, Houston, San Francisco, all over wrestling country in the mid-west. Even ran in the Royal Gazette in Bermuda. Johnson was later nominated for the Liberty Mutual Responsible Sports Program “Moment of the Month,” a program that recognizes acts of selflessness and goodness at the youth sports level. Liberty Mutual even donated $1,000 to his wrestling club.

I got to talking with his dad a month later. “He still doesn’t know why he’s getting so much attention,” he said. “He just felt like it was the right thing to do.”

It’s not just a feel-good story. It was a decision to think of someone else instead of “me” all the time. Sometimes it seems like this broken world will never change, but we can change it one action, one thought, one word at a time.

Accountability, get some.

Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Hagadone Newspaper Group and can be reached at rharwood@columbiabasinherald.com.

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