A Stones Throw 9-25-14


Last week I promised a “good news Thursday” for this week’s ‘A Stones Throw’.

Actually, I want to start with an extension of the recent bad news I have been writing about.

Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has become the face of Domestic Abuse. I commented last week that it is appalling that Ravens fans have attended Ravens home football games wearing Ray Rice jerseys and voicing support for Rice. I commented that even though the Baltimore Ravens offered fans an exchange of Ray Rice jerseys for a jersey of another Ravens player, no jerseys were exchanged.

But now the good news.

Last Friday the Baltimore Ravens held an “official” Ray Rice jersey exchange. Based on previous exchange activity, Friday was probably considered to be a day of relaxation for Ravens Pro shop workers.

It wasn’t.

Friday, more than 7,000 Baltimore Ravens fans showed up with Ray Rice jerseys in hand. Almost every one of the 7,000 left with a different jersey in hand. Those who did not leave with a jersey in hand left with a voucher in hand. They will get their new jerseys later.

The Ravens Pro shop ran out of jerseys.

And, 7,000 Baltimore Ravens fans – former Ray Rice fans – through their actions told the world “We got the message. Ray Rice is a villain – not a hero.”

On the other hand often vilified Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown is a hero – not a villain.

Not because the Bengals are currently 3-0. Not because the Bengals are considered one of the two or three best teams in the NFL this year.

Instead, Mike Brown and Bengals’ coach Marvin Lewis are heroes because of their treatment of defensive tackle Devon Still.

Devon Still, a marginal defensive tackle pulled a hamstring during the third preseason game. As a result of his injury and his marginal skills, the Bengals cut him from the roster.

But, there was a problem.

Devon Still’s four-year-old daughter Leah has cancer. Her doctors put her chance of survival at about 50-percent – and that is after four rounds of chemotherapy and then surgery to take the tumor out of her stomach.

The estimated cost of her treatment is $1 million.

Even with all this, the Cincinnati Bengals made a business decision and cut Devon Still.

They also made a humanitarian decision and told Still – at the same time they told him he was being cut from the roster – that if no other team signed him during the two-day waiver period, the Bengals would sign him to their practice squad.

Two days later, Devon Still was signed to the practice squad. Not necessarily because he was the best available player for the practice squad, but, because practice squad members receive full medical insurance coverage.

Leah’s cancer treatment would be covered 100-percent by insurance.

It doesn’t end there.

When the Bengals suffered a couple of injuries, the decision was made to move Still to the active roster. Again, not necessarily because he was the best player available, but possibly because an active player who makes the NFL minimum salary makes several times more than a practice squad player.

And, even with full medical insurance, Still had significant costs that fell outside “medical” costs.

Devon Still responded with an on-field effort that has generated in-game playing time. At the same time, he spends every possible second that he can be away from the team with his daughter.

But, the Bengals didn’t stop there. They announced that the revenue from all Devon Still jersey sales would be donated to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Pediatric Cancer care.

The first day the Still’s jersey went on sale at the Bengals Pro Shop 1,000 jerseys were sold. The most sales of a jersey in one day in Bengals history.

Nine hundred Cincinnati Bengals fans purchased a Devon Still jersey in support of his four-year-old daughter and in support of Children’s Hospital.

Nine hundred Bengals fans and one New Orleans Saints fan.

Actually, not a Saints fan – the Saints coach – Sean Payton.

Payton was driving in his car when he heard news about the Bengals plan to donate all Devon Still jersey sales to support Pediatric Cancer care. As soon as he got to his office he called and ordered 100 Devon Still jerseys.

It doesn’t get better than that.

One day soon, there will be 100 young New Orleans Saints fans proudly wearing a Cincinnati Bengals jersey. All because one National Football League owner and his coach decided there are times humanity trumps business and because one New Orleans Saints coach feels the same.

In another case, two Indianapolis Colts players – punter Pat McAfee and tight end Coby Fleener – recently exhibited the same kind of humanity in honoring a military veteran.

Erich Orrick received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart as a result of his service in Iraq. When Orrick returned to civilian life, he became active in “Wish for Our Heroes,” a charity that supports military veterans in need. He has donated his time and what little money he has to support other veterans who are struggling after their return to civilian life.

McAfee, who provides 20 tickets to each Colts home game to active or retired military, told Fleener about Erich Orrick and the work he does for other veterans. As they discussed Orrick and “Wish for our Heroes,” an idea was formulated.

Soon the idea became a plan.

And the plan became an action.

One day, McAfee, his parents, Fleener, and several other “skilled” volunteers redecorated and renovated Orrick’s home. When they were finished, Orrick had a renovated home that included new appliances and a dedicated “man cave” featuring a special shadow box that displays Orrick’s badges and medals.

In addition, McAfee and Fleener donated $5,000 to “Wish for Our Heroes.” (That $5,000 immediately was used to help change the life of another veteran – a single mother facing the threat of homelessness.)

At the same time, the good is not always in terms of money.

Last week, Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis witnessed an accident where a pickup truck ended upside down with a man pinned underneath. He immediately went to the aid of the man who was trapped.

He couldn’t get the man out.

So, he waved people over to help him lift the truck off of the man. Shortly thereafter, Davis, along with several others who came to help, lifted the truck and held it while the injured man was pulled out of harm’s way.

A simple act of kindness.

The type of action and effort most athletes – and most non-athletes – do every day.

We just don’t hear much about the good things people do.

Maybe that is because there is so much good going around that the bad is the exception.

Thus the news.

- Mike Cooney