Simple ideas make for big differences

By Emanuel Johnson | 8/29/11 1:17am


There should be no doubt that sports fans at Grand Valley State University support their teams through and through, especially when it comes to football. At its home games last season, the football team averaged more than 10,000 fans per game.

And now junior running back Norman Shuford has given non-sports fans a reason to cheer the Lakers on to victory, not because of performance on the field, but because of his compassion and selflessness off of the field. Through his idea for Carries for the Cures, Shuford enlisted doctors, patients, survivors and families across the world in the fight against not only the team’s opponents this season, but also in the fight against a disease that has left families everywhere in turmoil. And in doing so, Shuford showed that football can be used as more than a source of personal wealth – University of Miama, take note.

Football plays a key role in American society, as demonstrated by widespread concern with the state of this past summer’s NFL Lockout (thank God that’s over). Fans demand it, advertisers use it to market products and services, media outlets feed off of it and players, coaches and owners make a whole-lotta money.

Football, and popular sports in general, can be also used as valuable sources of good in society, as demonstrated by GVSU’s team-wide dedication to raising funding for cancer programs.

But while the idea of allowing people to pledge a certain amount of money toward cancer programs depending upon the team’s success seems a simple one, such actions are far too rare. Instead we are plagued by university boosters who buy cars, jewelry and prostitutes for athletes, coaches at prominent universities that turn a blind eye to apparent team corruption and NFL running backs who hold out for top-tier contracts despite being offered a contract worth upwards of $10 million. Outside of a few outliers, today’s American athlete is greedy, as are their coaches and team owners.

Avoiding suspicion and speculation was the primary drive behind Shuford’s decision to turn the entire fundraiser over to the American Cancer Society.

“There are so many scandals out there, and one thing I wanted to do through this whole process is make it loud and clear that this is a fundraiser to fight cancer, not a scandal,” he said. “And I would feel sorry for the person that would use cancer as scandal knowing how it has affected people everywhere.”

American fans deserve a higher class of character in its sports – they deserve athletes, coaches and team owners who recognize the position they’ve attained within society and think of new and innovative ways to use those positions for the greater good. And it’s nice to think that the foundation for such a character comes from the starting running back from a relatively small and nationally-obscure Division II college in the cornfields of Allendale, Mich.

To GVSU administration: don’t let this program be limited to the football team. We have so many prominent athletic programs at GVSU, and the potential for good through this program is infinite. So help Shuford – figure out ways to incorporate it into other teams. Promote it – make it known that great ideas come from great students at great universities.

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