Sometimes it takes a kid to teach adults what is important in sports

Even I was getting depressed with the sports world. It seems that most of my columns recently have addressed the seedier side of athletics. I have written about the helmet swing, Chase Young’s suspension for violating NCAA rules, and the firing of Astros assistant general manager for nasty comments made to female reporters about domestic abuse. Unfortunately, there are more incidents that have, as yet, not found their way to these pages.

For example, I have not tackled the investigation of alleged sign stealing by those aforementioned Astros. In addition, another MLB relief pitcher has been accused of domestic violence, while baseball is investigating the tweet from an umpire that threatened violence. Perhaps the most disturbing thing (and there are a lot of choices for this dubious distinction) was the report of death threats to Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford after the Nittany Lions lost to the University of Minnesota a few weeks ago.

It has always been my belief that there are a lot more good things in sports than bad, but I was beginning to wonder. Was it possible for me to find something uplifting about people and the world of sports?

The answer was a resounding yes. While watching a college football pregame show last weekend, the announcer brought up a letter that was written by a 9 year old Michigan State fan to coach Mark Dantonio, quarterback Brian Lewerke and his teammates and Spartan football fans in general. The sportscaster mentioned that I could read the whole letter on his twitter account.

I did just that and now you will get to share in the incredible wisdom of this youngster.

Fraser Hartnell has been to Spartan Stadium just twice in his nine years, but he watches every MSU game on TV. He watches with his dad and, until he passed away, his grandfather. Both his dad and grandad graduated from Michigan State and Fraser hopes to do the same.

The Spartans have had a difficult season as their 5-6 record indicates and young Fraser was bothered by all the sadness surrounding his favorite team. He decided to write the letter to cheer up the coaches and players. I have to think it did just that. Here, then, are excerpts from the missive.

Dear Coach Dantonio: My Dad and I say “chase it” every day and not good bye when he takes me to school. This is from the Rose Bowl. It means to try hard every time. You are an awesome coach. When my Grandpa was alive he said the same thing.

He said you, Duffy and George did a lot. You have more wins than they do, but my Dad says there is more to sports than wins.

When my Grandpa died you sent a letter to my Grandma and a letter to my Dad. I have not seen my Dad cry many times, but he cried when he got your letter. That was very nice of you.

I hope my letter makes you smile.

Dear Mr. Lewerke (No. 14): I know your name is Brian, but my Dad says I have to say Mr. when I talk to people older than me. It is respect.

Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. If you have fun it is not losing because you get to play your favorite sport.

Dear Spartan football fans: There are a lot of things sadder than losing a game. Some people don’t have homes and live on the street in the cold. Some people are very sick with disease. Some people are in the Army and Navy and can die so we can watch a game. So if your team loses a game, be sad for a few minutes, but then remember you are alive. Games are supposed to be FUN, but they are just games.

Young Mr. Hartnell said some other things and reading the whole letter, in my opinion, is worth your while. It is obvious to me that he has had some great parental guidance during his nine years. Many of us were taught similar values when we were young, but it seems that we may have lost sight of them as we got older. Sometimes it takes a mere youngster to remind us what “should be” when it comes to being an athlete or fan.

I’m sure that I will write about what “shouldn’t be” in future columns. For now though, it was nice to see something positive for a change. Sports, done properly, have so many wonderful things to offer.

Thanks, Fraser Hartnell, for reminding me of this fact. You have restored my faith in people.

Al Stephenson is a columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.

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