Feb 20, 2010, 5:30 PM EDT
How many times have we seen the same, tired story? A team is going through a troublesome slump, so in a move to show solidarity and team unity, some of the players shave their heads. That’ll show ‘em, right?
The same silly scenario appeared to be playing out with the Minnesota Gophers men’s basketball team. The Gophers are in the process of suffering through a remarkably inconsistent and disappointing season. Heading into Thursday’s border battle against the then No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers, Minnesota was sitting at 14-10 with a 5-7 record in Big Ten play, so the drastic – yet lame – move to shave their heads made a modicum of sense.
There was only one thing that made their decision unique: they were not doing it to show team unity – well, not in the way one would suspect – the Gophers shaved their heads in tribute to teammate Paul Carter’s kid sister, Bria, 14, who recently lost her hair due to chemotherapy procedures to treat osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.
During a team meeting, Damian Johnson suggested that the team follow the lead of Carter, who, according to his father Ron, took the news of his sister’s illness “very hard,” had already shaved his head to show his support for his sister. Many players on the team agreed.
When the family saw what the team did for Bria while they were watching the game from Bria’s hospital room in Chicago, they were incredibly moved by the gesture.
Bria’s tears fell first. Soon, her father, other family members and even hospital staff began to sob.
“We were watching the game like we always do in Bria’s hospital room,” Ron Carter said. “The game had been on for a couple of minutes. And I said, ‘Wait a minute.’ … She just burst into tears. It was a very emotional moment.”
What the team did meant a lot to Carter, who regretfully cannot be with Bria during this difficult time.
“It’s been real tough because that’s my little sister, I’ve always protected her,” he said. “And being far from home and not being able to get out there and take care of her is a problem. I’ve been all right. Basketball has helped me get my mind off it.”
The overall prognosis for the six-foot tall Bria is encouraging. There is an over 70% survival rate for patients afflicted with osteosarcoma, although she is scheduled to undergo a procedure where surgeons will remove either some or all of her femur bone. Amputation of her leg may become necessary, although the Carters hope it will not come to that.
You know, I am as cynical as they come, but you can refer to me as an old sappy sucker with a sprinkling of old-fashioned provincial homerism thrown in for good measure, because I found this story incredibly moving. It is so refreshing to read a positive, uplifting story every once in a while, compared to the filthy flotsam and jetsam we usually have to navigate in sports bloggery, and this story of a team rallying around their teammate and his family as they go through a horrendous ordeal certainly qualifies as one.
Just in case you were curious, the Gophers went on to beat the Badgers 68-52 with their new ‘dos the other night, but as you can quickly realize in a matter of a second – like the moment when a young man hears how his little sister is sick and there is very little he can do about it – there are far more important things in life than a silly basketball game.
And taking a moment to realize that is perhaps the most important thing of all.
Gophers show unity in support of Carter [Star Tribune]
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