In our society today division is the name of the game. Constantly on our news and across the television you see nothing but division. Families are torn apart by a difference of opinion or beliefs. Lifelong friends become estranged, because they don’t view life in the same way. You didn’t vote the way I did? I hate you! Not the same religion as me? I can’t stand you! Not from the same state as me? You’re a waste of air! Not from the same TOWN as me? You are a despicable human being! I have been guilty of this many times and looking back I am actually pretty disappointed in myself. “I can’t stand/hate/don’t like people from (insert name here) is something that I think we all say way too often.

In a world that is becoming more and more tribalistic as time goes on and people seem to become even less accepting of each others differences it was heartwarming to see the things I’ve seen just being a simple sideline photographer at football games the last couple of weeks. When Ballinger played Crane in the Bi-District round of the playoffs after every hard hit there was a helping hand from players, many times players in the opposing jerseys. After every whistle there was a slap to the rear end or a pat on the helmet. Players that were just trying to destroy each other on the field showing a mutual respect and admiration for the effort of the other.

Maybe the most touching moment of the entire year was when the clock expired and Crane’s season came to an end. Crane players collapsed to the ground and players from the Ballinger sideline were none too pleased. Players from Ballinger rushed onto the field to reach a hand down to their opponent and lift them off of the ground. They did not allow them to drown in their defeat and instead lifted them up and congratulated them on one heck of a fight. Take away the different color jerseys and there was no difference in the players on the field. Just young men all over, playing a game they love and fighting to play one more week.

Similar events unfolded throughout the Area round playoff game between Ballinger and Abernathy. There was no pushing and shoving after plays. No dirty play of any sort. Players from opposing sidelines constantly lauding the other side for their effort and ability. Even after a huge play or a touchdown nobody allowed the opposing team to hang their head. Instead they pushed each other. Almost if saying, “You did good on that play, now let’s do it again and may the best man win.” At the conclusion of the game there were immediately players from the victorious Abernathy team mingling with Ballinger players on the field congratulating them on a hard fought season and game. There is something touching and emotional from seeing this type of sportsmanship. Whether these teams go on to win state championships, whether some of these players go on to play collegiate sports or beyond is irrelevant. It is irrelevant because they are growing up into the young men that this world needs. Young men that will choose to lift up rather than tear down someone that might already be feeling the weight of the world. This is a credit to the coaches that spend more time with these young men than anyone except maybe their parents.

Head coaches Jeff Cordell of Crane, Chuck Lipsey of Ballinger and Justin Wiley of Abernathy and their coaching staffs are not building football players. They are building future leaders of our towns, our state and our country. They should be applauded for helping to mold the young men out there on the field giving it their all. My hat is off to all of these young athletes and coaching staffs on the work that they do on and off the field. The sky is truly the limit in all of your future endeavors as long as you remember what is important. At the end of the day football is just a game, but that person in the other colored jersey is a human just like you with thoughts, feelings, family and emotions just like you. Here’s to hoping we grown ups can learnĀ a good lessonĀ from these kids and we can continue to build each other up in life, even when we have different personal goals.

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