A REPERCUSSION OF LIVING anything but a typical 9-to-5 life is that I often find myself wide awake in the wee hours of the morning.
But on Sunday night at about 1:32 a.m., I was happy my insomnia took its customary stronghold as I witnessed what was arguably the best story I have ever seen on ESPN's "SportsCenter."
Reporter Tom Rinaldi told the moving story of the Summerville (S.C.) High boys' basketball team, which rallied behind the memory of its fallen coach, Louis Mulkey, to ultimately win the 2008 4-A title.
Mulkey was one of nine firefighters - later to be known as the "Charleston Nine" - who died battling a multi-alarm blaze at a furniture store in 2007. You can't help but get a bit misty-eyed as the story recounts the last words of Mulkey, who told a fire chief to relay an "I love you" message to his wife, Lauren.
Inspired by Mulkey's memory, Summerville compiled a 23-3 record heading into the state final against Spartanburg. The teams battled to the closing seconds, when Summerville had a chance to ice the game with a free throw. But Summerville missed and Spartanburg's Zycorrian Robinson grabbed the rebound and heaved a
halfcourt prayer that went in just as the buzzer sounded.
Initially, you are led to believe that Summerville's hopes were crushed as players lay in shock on the court, crying. But in a sudden twist of fate, officials determine that the shot didn't beat the buzzer, allowing Summerville to take the trophy - its first in school history - back to the tombstone of its beloved coach.
It really is an emotional tale conveyed very well by Rinaldi and the footage. To check it out,
log onto ESPN.com and type "Summerville" in the keyword search.
Now, what ESPN doesn't tell you is that the backlash from the overturned call has Spartanburg officials seeking a review of the play by the state's high school athletic association and has even forced a debate on using instant replay in state tournaments.
It's unlikely Summerville's title will be pulled, so for now, it's a story that again reminds us to never question the power of human will.
Even at 1:32 in the morning. *
- Kerith Gabriel