Some of you may have read or heard the story last week of Chicago Bears rookie J.T. Thomas and his date with a disabled girl to her eighth-grade prom. On Saturday morning, I heard an interview with Thomas on a sports-radio show hosted by former NFLer Lincoln Kennedy. I was kind of floored by this dude.
There is a lot of "noise" these days. We have cell phones and Twitter and computers and Facebook and satellite radio. Most of us, too, have to work twice as hard these days to pay the rent, keep the lights on and pay for gas. Thus, for me, it is quite a thing to just stop everything, pull my car over and listen to an interview. This kid, J.T. Thomas, and his story almost brought me to damn tears.
Thomas was drafted in the sixth round by the Bears in April and is getting ready to embark on an NFL career in the place where linebackers such as Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary became legends. The kind of stuff the rest of us armchair-athletes can only daydream about.
Thomas is still finishing his last year at West Virginia University, and hence, heard the story about a Morgantown girl who was having some trouble finding a date to her prom.
Joslyn Levell, 14, is in a wheelchair with spina bifida, a condition that prevents the spinal cord from fully developing. She had asked a few boys to the prom, but had been turned down … until J.T. Thomas came along.
Sports always has one or another negative story from week to week. The pitching coach for "this" team insulting fans and kids in the stands. Thug fans from "that" team beating up on a fan of the other team. An ex-NFL guy making Anne Frank remarks in bad form. Etc., etc.
When I heard Kennedy's voice crack a little bit during his radio interview with Thomas -- during the part of the story when Thomas' stepmom called Joslyn's parents to ask if Thomas could call and "pop the question" -- I suddenly felt a rush of humanity … at the risk of coming off too corny. Whatever. It is a great story, and professional sports need more guys like J.T. Thomas.
This story of J.T. Thomas has gotten a bit of "play" already in the sports press. That is good indeed.
Online blogs and portals are where we get our news and information nowadays, but too often -- and just to get a rise in readership (or "hits" to the site) -- we online journalists may just go for the easy smack-talk topic.
For the past three years that I have been writing at Playboy.com, Seattle Weekly.com and now ESPN.com, I have taken on a side mission of trying to raise the bar a bit when it comes to us all having positive or thoughtful comments and discourse on the different topics that I write about. I see the topics that I write about as simply conversation starters.
If you don't agree with what I or other writers are saying, stand up and be counted, and tell us why. Bellicose aggression is easy. Smart discourse, though, is enlightening, and can maybe even change some reader's day and outlook.
Stories such as Mr. Thomas' should be brought more to the fore. I am honored to write my props to guys like this -- and it beats the other topics like DUIs, domestic violence and all of that bull. Are ya with me?
I know these fellas didn't ask to be role models, but it is great to hear about when a guy, such as Thomas, rises above it all and does a very public "solid."
Thomas said that the look on those boys' faces -- the ones who rebuked Joslyn's invitation to the prom -- was a priceless moment. Thomas is a star in Morgantown, and those boys got a little lesson in how to be a stand-up guy.
Musician Duff McKagan, who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and has his autobiography due out later this year, writes a weekly sports column for ESPN.com.