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From selfish to hungry

Published December 22. 2011 05:01PM

We grow from our mistakes.

Unfortunately, the maturation rate for some multi-million athletes these days takes longer than most.

Consider the childish behavior of New York Jets football player Santonio Holmes whose selfish antics in last Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles cost his team greatly. After Holmes caught a touchdown pass late in the first half, the Jets, although still trailing by 13 points, seemed to have some momentum.

After scoring, Holmes, a Jets' captain nonetheless, disregarded his teammates and decided to do a "look at me" act in the end zone. The officials flagged him for taunting with an Eagles flap and the team was penalized. Throw in the fact that Holmes had earlier dropped two crucial passes that killed potential scoring drives and you can see how idiotic Holmes' actions were.

For youngsters, the object lesson in all of this is how NOT to act in a team sport. Self-aggrandizement rather than focusing on the team is something that coaches like Vince Lombardi or Tom Landry hated. If Holmes had been playing for either of them 40 years ago, it's likely he would have been packing his bags Monday, especially given the fact that his team was humiliated on the scoreboard, 45-19.

We can contrast the Holmes disgrace with a feel-good high school sports story about the Burke County Bears, a football team from rural Georgia that was so hungry, it went out and won a state championship.

And by hungry, we mean it literally.

Burke County is one of the poorest in the state. Income is so low that 85 percent of students in the school qualify for the free breakfast and lunch program.

As the football season progressed, Coach Eric Parker noticed how some players were becoming so tired they had trouble finishing practice ... and games. It turns out that many were suffering dehydration and malnutrition. After the free breakfast and lunch program, many players were getting no other meals at home. Nutrition-wise, there was nothing left in their tanks at the end of the day.

After hearing from the coach that his players did not have the energy to practice or finish games, Donna Martin, the school nutritionist, found help through a federally-funded program called Healthy Hunger-Free Kids. At the cost of $3 per meal, the district was able to provide dinner to 500 lower-income students.

The nutrition program began paying off and soon there were no football players forced to quit because they were too tired or hungry.

Coach Parker explained how they began to finish games stronger. That included Burke County's biggest win ever several weeks ago ... to win the Georgia 3-A state championship.

By Jim Zbick

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