Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted April 23, 2014 at 3:00 pm


Lacey Holsworth.psd

What was your take-away highlight from this year’s NCAAs?, a friend asked the other day.

These photos, I said, before the NCAA started.

Lacey Holsworth (Little Princess) with pal Adreain Payne on Senior Night at Michigan State.

One Shining Moment. Pause please, and look into these photos.

Every time they come up on my computer screen, misty sets in, my eyes fill with tears. Eight year old Lacey Holsworth died two days after the NCAA tournament ended.

Images of a beautiful, incredibly brave little girl whose innocence transported us beyond NCAA money-grubbers, players included, and in particular ball coaches (alleged teachers) who advance their careers by recruiting (almost exclusively) black kids with the ideal that piles of money is more important than being a kid in college.

For fast talking college ball coaches, One Shining Moment happens in the Green Room on NBA draft night in June.

Adreain Payne IS rich. He will earn lots of dollars playing professionally. When the ball stops bouncing as it inevitably does, he will have a college degree and golden memories of time at Michigan State, first among them, time with Lacey and the impact it had on all who witnessed it. This life-so-far experience at college will rate higher than all the cash Payne has or ever will have.

For some of us, the Princess’ expression in these photos is the One Shining Moment for 2014, and a lifetime for Adreian Payne.

The photos also brought to mind a column I penned in 1995.

From the archives … Tuesdays With Morrie, and Alex.

July 22, 1995. (re-edited) I wrote …

“This is about dying. This is about living. This is about special human beings. And, it’s about you and me.

Morrie Schwartz was a feisty little man of sharp-edge humor alternatively sweet and gruff. He took full advantage of being a curmudgeon, having his way.

Brave too. Near the end, Morrie let a writer into his private life, and then ABC’s Ted Koppel peered into the last twinklings of his life. Morrie was a retired professor of Sociology at Brandies University who was 79 and battling ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Mitch Albom had been his student who had gone on to sports writing at the Detroit Free Press. When Albom was told about his old professor’s demise he went to see him, rekindled a friendship that included Schwartz taking his friend down a few pegs from the pedestal of his own importance.

At first Albom flew back to Boston to spend time with his old teacher, then he moved back east and began to visit every Tuesday until the end of Morrie’s life in November, 1995.

They had agreed Albom would chronicle Morrie’s experience with dying. The old professor was candid, philosophical and appreciated Albom’s devotion.

In turn, the author-to-be got a good taste of grumpy, cantankerous and get-out-of-my-face. Albom got to look into the face of another human whose life was melting away. Morrie spoke poignantly about how fear felt and tasted, about pain, loss of independence, about despair and dying.

The old man was tough too, showing his biographer good wit, enormous dignity and courage and an uncompromising spirit right to the last good-bye.

Tuesdays With Morrie the book was 192 pages. Albom painted his central character in vivid, sensitive and kindly detail.Was a best seller with a good epilogue too. First earnings, Albom used to pay Morrie’s medical expenses, funeral, establish a scholarship at Brandies in his name.

Morrie Schwartz ((1916-1995)

ALEX

Much as Lacey Holsworth’s short time has done to us freshly, Alex: The Life of a Child, flooded the tear ducts too. Writer extraordinaire and PBS commentator Frank Deford penned a book about his daughter Alexandra who was dying of Cystic Fibrosis.

As expected, Deford did the work so artfully the story in Hallelujahs, made us weep. It illuminated amazingly the power and strength summoned up by a strikingly lovely child who called her father “my Little Daddy.”

Alexandra Deford (1971-1980)

Back to Lacey Holsworth. I like to believe part of her legacy is a nudge, a reminder about two other extraordinary people of whom two exquisite books came our way in excruciating detail. I imagine, by now Lacey has read them both.

Tuesdays With Morrie and Alex (both inspired motion pictures).

Morrie Schwartz left in November, 1995. He was 79.

Alexandra Deford died January 19, 1980. She was nine.

Lacey Holsworth died April 9, 2014. A Tuesday. She was eight.

Each was One Shining Moment.

And so it goes.