Why Sports Matter

We are fast approaching college basketball’s March Madness tournament, one of the best times of the sports year, especially if you are a Kansas Jayhawk fan (take that, all of you conference-jumping Mizzou Tiger chumps).

To understand the power of sports to heal, to unite, and, yes, to divide us, or at least reflect the divisions among us, I direct you to today’s USA Today:

Loyola’s ‘Game of Change’ an afterthought 50 years later

Here’s the photo attached to the story:

loyola 1963

It is hard to believe that only 50 years ago it was a big deal in America when a white college basketball player would shake the hand of a black player. In fact, as the story notes, in order to play Loyola of Chicago in that NCAA Mideast Regional, the Mississippi State team,

had to rush out of Starkville just to get to the tournament in East Lansing, Mich., defying a state injunction designed to stop the game. In 1963, teams from Mississippi did not play integrated opponents, even in the Mideast Regional.

Loyola went on to win a most improbable NCAA championship in 1963, largely because its coach dared to put four black players on the floor at the same time. He apparently valued winning over massaging the sensibilities of anxious and insecure whites.

Which reminds me of when a friend of mine, who coached basketball at Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College in the late 1960s and early 1970s, told me that he got some pushback when he first put what some considered to be too many black players on the floor. Today that same college has a museum in its Fine Arts Center dedicated to Gordon Parks, the famous African-American photographer, writer, and film director, who was born in Fort Scott. That’s progress.

In any case, read the USA Today story and see, despite all the problems with money and exploitation, what a force for good athletics can be in the lives of young men and, these days, in the lives of young women. It’s a fantastic story.



  1. As an MSU fan, I am proud of the part that my school played in this event. The game took place at old Jenison Field House, which was also the site of my wife and my first date! (Oh, and look for the Spartans in the Final Four once again.)


    • Soilsifter,

      Thanks for pointing out the role Jenison Field House played in that historic event. Here is a photo of the plaque commemorating it:

      And by the way, good luck to the Spartans, although not too much, should KU make it to the finals!



  2. I don’t know why my comment above was posted under my business email address (http://www.thesoilsifter.com)! Probably because I was logged in to my other blog at the time! Anyway, it’s Brad, in case you couldn’t tell from my style! A KU/MSU final or semi-final would be fine with me!


  3. writer89

     /  March 21, 2013

    MSU moves on, so you’re a step closer to success. I didn’t enter any pools, because it has been bad luck for my Spartans in the past!


    • I always pick the Jayhawks in my pool. Always. Couldn’t fill out a bracket that didn’t have them as the National Champion. We get to play Michigan on Friday, after a timid game against Western Kentucky and a superlative second half against Carolina. I hope we play against Michigan the way we played that second half. If we play like we did in the first half, we’re doomed.

      Good luck again!


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