Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #145

Jan. 4 – Jan. 10, 2015

Welcome to week one hundred forty-five of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:

  1. Tense Scene on Basketball Court 50 Years Ago Recalls Catholic Role in Civil Rights
  2. The unlikely story of a long-snapping Green Beret with an NFL dream
  3. At Princeton, a Student of Sports Leadership Successfully Applies Her Research
  4. ‘Space Jam’ — The Art Exhibition — Is A ’90s Sports Fan’s Dream Come True
  5. Good Sports: Losing NFL Teams Are Winning Off the Field
  6. Surprise! SoCal junior hockey game gets NHL treatment (VIDEO)
  7. Bringing hope and cheer to a refugee camp in Cameroon
  8. NBA Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley referees JV basketball game at DeMatha
  9. Seahawks’ Russell Wilson channels father’s influence as player, leader
  10. Sarah Piampiano’s Unlikely Road From Investment Banker To Elite Triathlete

One of the things that attracts us to certain stories is the perception that what been done or what the person/organization is going through is not so common, aka the “unlikely” story. Two of the stories featured this week actually include that description right in the title and several others could certainly be characterized that way.

Included this week are such stories dealing with: the special basketball game that took place 50 years ago during the height of civil rights tensions in the U.S.; an Army veteran with an amazing life who is seeking further challenges; a thought-leader and coach who is leading her women’s basketball team to record-breaking success; a junior hockey game that is surprisingly feted with the trappings of a professional contest; the tremendous effort to deliver some joy and hope through sport to those stuck in a refugee camp; the strange but wonderful sight of a Hall of Fame athlete serving in the important and often underappreciated role as a middle school basketball game referee; and the rather risky move for a successful investment banking professional to abandon that career to try to become a professional athlete.

While these stories may be somewhat rare, they are certainly not unprecedented. In many cases, it is just a matter of having the story told. We are happy to play a small role in making these wonderful individuals, teams, and organizations more familiar to the wider public.

Please continue to send along your stories. You are both our audience and our best source of stories. Our Twitter handle is @sportsdoinggood, and you can find us at

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

Tense Scene on Basketball Court 50 Years Ago Recalls Catholic Role in Civil Rights
Even so, the opposition of Tennessee’s state athletic association kept Father Ryan from including black players on its sports teams until Mr. Derrick and the school’s new principal, the Rev. James Hitchcock, forced the issue. In 1961, the team Mr. Derrick coached played an unauthorized scrimmage against an all-black team from National Christian Institute, a local religious school. Then, two black students, Jesse Porter and Willie Brown, were added to the squad for the 1963-64 season, and Mr. Derrick would not play any school that would not accept his integrated team. The basketball game sent shock waves throughout the South. Father Ryan won a nail-biter 52-51, and the spectators, white and black, went home peaceably. By this year’s 50th anniversary, it seemed nothing but ordinary to have Pearl and Father Ryan play each other.

Luke Dixon of Father Ryan High School going for a layup against Pearl High School on Monday in Nashville. On Jan. 4, 1965, Father Ryan High School’s integrated basketball team played a groundbreaking game against Pearl High School’s team, which because of segregation was entirely black. Fifty years and a day later, the two teams played again to commemorate that game. Joe Buglewicz for The New York Times

The unlikely story of a long-snapping Green Beret with an NFL dream
Boyer’s college eligibility is up. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and a master’s degree in advertising. His time in the National Guard ends in February and he is retiring from the military. He is looking to begin a career in the film industry and has an internship set up with famed producer Peter Berg. It’s time to start the rest of his life. Well, almost. He wants to take a crack at the NFL. “At this point,” Boyer said, “why not?” He holds no illusions about how the league views him – “over-aged and undersized.” Still, one of the core values of the Special Forces is to find a way. He knows he won’t be drafted. He just wants a camp invite, a rookie tryout, something, anything, where he can prove himself.

Nate Boyer is pictured in a personal photo from Afghanistan.

At Princeton, a Student of Sports Leadership Successfully Applies Her Research
That May, days after completing and defending her 100-page oral history on sports leadership, Banghart, then 29, was hired as Princeton’s coach. She is now a rising star in a profession she never thought she would pursue when she was a neuroscience major and two-time first-team all-Ivy League guard as an undergraduate at Dartmouth. Banghart has led Princeton to the only four N.C.A.A. tournament appearances in team history and to a 16-0 record this season. The Tigers are one of four undefeated teams in Division I, and 22nd in the Associated Press poll, the second time an Ivy League women’s program has been ranked.

Under Courtney Banghart, center, who did a master’s project on sports leadership, Princeton is nationally ranked. Credit Beverly Schaefer/Princeton University

‘Space Jam’ — The Art Exhibition — Is A ’90s Sports Fan’s Dream Come True
The more he thought about it, the more sense it made. “The title correlates to making work for a show; it’s kind of meta, about space but also about action. Space like outer space but also a gallery space. It was all coming together. And I had made some Michael Jordan paintings when I was living in Europe, so I decided to go on a little Michael Jordan riff.” The artworks on view play off the imagery associated with basketball — from images of Jordan himself to polyethylene vinyl flags to gilded Styrofoam cups that make you almost taste the sweaty Gatorade. And then there are the hologram paintings, inspired by the tags of NBA clothing and the multicolored glow of basketball cards.

Good Sports: Losing NFL Teams Are Winning Off the Field
The NFL Playoffs continue this weekend and by Sunday evening the field will be narrowed to four teams still vying for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. While winning on the field is every team’s preseason goal, only one franchise will finish the season as Super Bowl Champions. Although many NFL teams do a lot of losing, that doesn’t necessarily mean their season was a total wash. Oftentimes, success comes from other means, such as community involvement. The three teams below had a combined regular season record of 21-27, but many would argue their victories off the field trump any 2014 shortcomings.

The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and Mrs. Tanya Snyder hosted the seventh-annual All Star Survivors Celebration. (via Pinterest)

Surprise! SoCal junior hockey game gets NHL treatment (VIDEO)
On Dec. 21, FOX Sports West & Prime Ticket surprised the players and fans at a Junior Kings and Junior Ducks game with the full NHL experience, in the first-ever “Junior Freeway Faceoff.” The families and kids were stunned to see the Ducks and Kings mascots and in-game entertainment crews, announcers, FOX Sports analysts and a massive influx of fans descend upon the rink for a truly epic game. The teams showed the Kings vs. Ducks crosstown rivalry exists, not only between the pro squads, but extends to the junior level, as well, in this intensely-contested matchup.

Bringing hope and cheer to a refugee camp in Cameroon
Nir and Tom instructed local groups in the use of football as an educational tool to alleviate tension, resolve conflict, encourage and include the refugee population, maintain healthy lifestyles, and strengthen the spirit of the refugees. Tom and Nir also sat down with coaches and local volunteers for a professional training seminar. These local community leaders will continue the activities throughout the year when Mifalot is no longer present. The project was run in cooperation with the Israeli embassy of Cameroon, the sport minister of Cameroon and his staff, the UNDP, UNHCR, and other international organisations operating in the area.

NBA Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley referees JV basketball game at DeMatha
NBA Hall of Famer and former DeMatha star Adrian Dantley has added high school basketball referee to the list of jobs that keep him busy in retirement — a list that already included part-time crossing guard. “I’ll be 60 years old in six weeks,” Dantley told Deadspin’s Dave McKenna, who broke the story in March 2013 that Dantley was making $14,000 a year as a crossing guard in Montgomery County. “Being a crossing guard and a ref gets me out of the house. Everybody was surprised to see me [refereeing] last night, but I’m not a person who’s going to sit around the house.”

Seahawks’ Russell Wilson channels father’s influence as player, leader
“I play with my dad in my heart every game because he really taught me about discipline, preparation and how to be an ultimate competitor,” Wilson told USA TODAY Sports. “He always used to say, ‘There’s a king in every crowd.’ “Translation?”He meant you never know what scout, GM, owner and what kid is watching you play,” said Wilson. “So put your best foot forward every time.”He and my mom gave me my belief. He was always there encouraging me. … My dad’s got the best seat in the house, right there in the stands watching my games.”

Russell Wilson is looking to push his enviable record to 43-13 by season’s end. (Photo: Steven Bisig, USA TODAY Sports)

Sarah Piampiano’s Unlikely Road From Investment Banker To Elite Triathlete
She began slowly, training whenever she could find time. She did a second triathlon a few months later, cutting 45 minutes from her time and winning the overall amateur title. By 2011 she was really hooked. She requested fewer hours and less responsibility at work so she could give more time and energy to her training. Her company was supportive, but Piampiano knew if she wanted to go pro she’d need to give racing her all. She’d need to take a leap. She quit her job in 2012 and moved to Santa Monica, California, to train full time. It was scary, giving up the security of big paychecks, but it was a chance Piampiano felt she had to take.

Sarah Piampiano gave up her athletic pursuits for a high-powered career, but a friend’s bet helped her rediscover the joy of competition. Now she wants to inspire others to take the small steps that could lead to big changes. Larry Rosa

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