University of Indiana team manager Mike Santa lived out a true life Hoosier story last Tuesday, March 10th, when he logged three minutes during the teams blowout victory over Wisconsin.
To my recollection, this is the first such instance of a team manager appearing in a game for a division one basketball powerhouse. However, team managers have gone on and had success in similar situations.
For instance, the autistic team manager Jason McElwain for Greece Athena High School who came off the bench to hit six three pointers in his one and only game, or Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger who, after struggling to be accepted into the school and playing on the scout team, finally made it onto the field to record a quarterback sack in his second of two plays during his only game for the “Golden Domers” of Notre Dame.
Of course, I can’t forget the Ollie from “Hoosiers” the movie (quiet little substitute who wins the big game for the Indiana state champions) inspired by the 1954 Milan High School team. And, perhaps my favorite, Bobby Boucher the hapless water boy who became an All-American linebacker for the South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs.
Well maybe that last one was an exaggeration, but all those stories have something in common. Aside from a total unknown being thrust into the spotlight from relative obscurity, all are examples of what’s right and good in sports from the age old theory that a team is greater than the sum of its parts. Inspirational stories are the reason why we as humans tend to root for the underdog.
Sports are all about the fact that on an even playing field we all have a chance to compete and succeed. From the coaching staff, to the players (starters and reserves), managers, and training and athletic staff it takes a team effort to build a successful program.
In playing Santa, Indiana University demonstrated the enduring positive nature of the human experience. That each and every one of us (especially the spectators who all the pomp and circumstance is for) contribute to the bright lights and big stage that we all enjoy, even if we all operate from relative obscurity.
So on this day let us give tribute to Tom Crean and the University of Indiana basketball team for giving the little guy a chance to play in the big game. Hopefully we all get that shot of a lifetime. Lord knows in these days and times we could all use the inspiration, especially this years Indiana team if it is to overcome its recent past and get into the big dance some time soon.
*image source: heraldtimesonline.com