What's The Diff?

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Johntel Franklin – Taking Two for the Other Team

Rivals High Tells Story of Inspiration and Hope on the Quicken Loans blogby Mike Dunklee

The concept of good sportsmanship applies to all walks of life, not just what happens in the gym or pool, or on the field or track. It’s about doing what’s right, even if it leads one astray from the easiest path to achieving their goal.

To keep it topical, exhibiting good sportsmanship is the very essence of what being “the DIFF” is.

I was particularly struck by a story I read on Rivals.com last week, and at once I knew the readers of this blog were the perfect audience to appreciate the outstanding character and selflessness displayed by the individuals involved.

A little background: High school basketball teams out of DeKalb, Ill. and Milwaukee, Wisc. had struck up a friendly non-conference, interstate rivalry, one in which the two teams would get together for pizza and sodas after each contest.

On the same day the Barbs were making the trip to Milwaukee to play the Knights, the mother of Knights’ senior captain Johntel Franklin was in the last hours of her life, losing her long battle with cervical cancer.

Franklin’s coaches and teammates joined him at the hospital to lend their support. When Knights Coach Aaron Womack, Jr. offered to cancel the game, Franklin showed tremendous strength of character, insisting the game go on for his teammates, and his opponents who had traveled so far.

During the second quarter of the game, Franklin showed up at the game and told his coach he wanted to play. The game was extremely tight and no doubt the Knights could benefit from Franklin’s senior leadership. Womack called a timeout to substitute him in.

The problem with that however was that since Franklin was not on the pre-game roster, for him to play, it would cost his team a technical foul and grant the opposing team two free throws.

Barbs Coach Dave Rohlman and his players were aware of the day’s events and in another display of admirable character and sportsmanship, Rohlman argued with the referees that he did not want to take the free throws. Not considering the circumstances. Not even with the game so close.

Rules are rules however and eventually Rohlman had to concede to them. He returned to his bench and asked for a volunteer to take the shots. His senior captain, Darius McNeal, raised his hand.

As McNeal went to take the shots, Rohlman said to him, “You realize you’re going to miss them, don’t you?”

McNeal nodded, went to the free throw line, and exhibited yet another admirable example of character and sportsmanship.

The first shot flew barely two feet. The second shot almost didn’t leave his hands.

It didn’t take long for the Knights bench and eventually the entire gym to understand what McNeal and his team had done. They quickly rewarded the selfless act with a standing ovation.

The Knights went on the win the game, but that mattered little to Rohlman, McNeal or their teammates. As McNeal describes his reasons for deliberately missing a pair of easy points, “I did it for the guy who lost his mom. It was the right thing to do.”

He couldn’t be more right. And for what he and his team did that night, that little, seemingly insignificant action (or inaction, if you will), McNeal and his team can forever hold their heads higher, knowing they were a part of something special, something they can be infinitely proud of.

Perhaps Coach Rohlman sums it up best: “This is something our kids will hold for a lifetime. They’ll remember what happened in that gym that night.”

And hopefully we’ll all remember this sterling example of what it truly means to be the DIFF.

Mike Dunklee is a blogger and proud former QLer and frequent contributor to the DIFF. We wish it was more frequent, but hey, we take what we can get. You can read his witty and off the pole humorous writings on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness on his aptly name blog Off the Pole. Thanks Mike. As always, keep 'em coming!

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  1. Wow. Thanks for sharing this positive story, Mike. With all the “win at all costs” news we hear out of the sports world, and the worry that kids are getting the wrong message from fallen sports heroes, it’s nice to read a story that shows kids DO realize winning isn’t everything. Doing the right thing is the most heroic of acts.

    Posted by: Rebecca | February 26, 2009
  2. This is a great story. Thanks for sharing. Really pulls at the heart strings.

    Posted by: Leftover Change | February 26, 2009
  3. Thanks, Rebecca.
    Everything you say is true. With the A-Rods and Barry Bonds of the world setting bad examples, it’s good to hear these stories too.
    And I’m sure there’s more like them that occur everyday. We all just need to make sure we find a way to share them with the world, kinda like how the DIFF blog does!

    Posted by: MrSarcastic | February 26, 2009

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018