Dear sports world,
There are lots of interpretations of Proverbs 11:25. Basically it says a generous person will prosper, that those who refresh others will be refreshed.
We’ve seen evidence of that around here in ways large and small, but all touching and amazing.
We Louisianans are a generous people, and not to blow our own duck calls, our generosity has taken many forms in recent years. After 9/11, we sent a fire truck up to New York to replace one destroyed in the terrorist attacks. After South Carolina suffered terrible flooding last year, LSU hosted the contest with the Gamecocks that was set for Columbia, with every effort (save the win) made to make South Carolina feel at home. Proceeds from the game were donated to South Carolina flood relief, and Leonard Fournette auctioned off his game jersey for flood relief — after a little NCAA arm-twisting.
Now, we’re in need. More than a dozen lives and tens upon tens of thousands of homes and businesses have been lost to flooding from the Florida Parishes to Acadiana. It’s the worst natural disaster in this nation since Superstorm Sandy.
Tragedy surpasses rivalries, and even SEC battle lines.
Despite underwhelming coverage from national media outlets, across the sports world, people, schools and organizations have seen our plight and answered our call. It’s been heartwarming, overwhelming, but ultimately, not surprising.
There are lots of problems in sports, as there are in society at large. Sports mirrors society to a large degree. But there is good, and there are good people, out there as well. And they have been replacing the floodwaters that have covered our neighborhoods and schools and business districts with a flood of kindness.
Here are but a few examples of the love and generosity people elsewhere in the sports world have showed to the people of Louisiana:
• South Alabama, under the direction of its athletic director Joel Erdmann, the former A.D. at Southeastern Louisiana, sent an 18-wheeler and four large box trucks full of food, water, clothes, diapers and other supplies. Half of them were dropped off in Hammond, where some in that area are also still recovering from March floods along the Northshore, and the other half was sent on to Lafayette.
Perhaps Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, might go down in history as the first time Alabama footbal…
• Fox Sports college football writer Stewart Mandel organized what he called the College Football Kickoff Drive earmarked for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation through Classy.org. Mandel originally set $2,016 as a goal but nearly doubled it to $4,000. As of Sunday morning nearly $3,000 was raised.
• The Pittsburgh Steelers came to New Orleans and beat the Saints 27-14 Friday in a preseason game; but before that, a group of Steelers fans dropped off flood relief donations at Saints headquarters in Metairie. “Things,” said Steelers fan Doug Stanberry from Marion, Arkansas, “are sometimes bigger than sports.” By the way, the Brother’s Brother Foundation in Pittsburgh also recently announced it was taking donations to send to Louisiana. Throw in a Terrible Towel and a sandwich from Primanti’s, won’t you guys?
• Former Southern basketball star and New Orleans native Avery Johnson, now the men’s coach at Alabama, donated a truckload of supplies and a significant amount of money to a fund Southern has set up to assist flood-affected students and faculty. Alabama and former LSU football coach Nick Saban, noting the aid Louisianians sent after Tuscaloosa was ravaged by tornadoes in 2011, urged fans there to contribute donations last weekend.
• Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari donated ticket sales from his celebrity softball game Sunday and proceeds from a text-driven donation campaign to the American Red Cross, earmarked for Louisiana flood relief.
• Boise State, which hosts UL-Lafayette on Saturday in the schools’ season opener, has a GoFundMe account going with the goal to donate $1 for every seat in its 36,000-seat Albertsons Stadium.
• Perhaps the most touching of all were the donations raised by the University of South Carolina, and the video it produced of the school’s marching band performing the LSU alma mater. Fans filled South Carolina’s equipment truck and sent it to LSU for distribution. “LSU was so gracious to assist us in our time of need,” South Carolina President Harris Pastides said. “Now it’s our turn to help our SEC friends.”
We take care of our own as well.
Former LSU baseball players are raising funds, including $15,000 from the Baltimore Orioles' Kevin Gausman, $5,000 from the Tampa Bay Rays’ Mikie Mahtook and $1,500 from the San Diego Padres' Ryan Schimpf. Saints punter Thomas Morstead’s What You Give Will Grow Foundation is raising money and collecting school supplies.
LSU track and field athletes and gymnasts, as well as UL-Lafayette football players have spent their days cleaning out houses in Baton Rouge and Lafayette. Former Cajuns baseball player Jonathan Lucroy, recently traded to the Texas Rangers, gave up his Lafayette home to UL-Lafayette baseball assistant Anthony Babineaux after his home took on two feet of water. And players from St. Thomas More’s basketball team spent a day ripping out drywall and carpet from local sportscaster Steve Peloquin’s home. Former LSU baseball player Mason Katz, playing in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, set aside time from his injury rehab to help do demo work on houses.
High school football jamborees were held last weekend, for some communities a major sign of normalcy. Fontainebleau High School in Mandeville allowed Live Oak to hold its jamboree there and donated proceeds to flood victims in addition to a fundraiser at a Mandeville restaurant.
There are no doubt many other acts of kindness from inside the sports world and without. For all of them we say thank you, and know that one day soon South Louisiana will be ready to pay your kindness forward.
We’ll see to it personally that the generous will prosper.
Advocate sportswriters and correspondents Robin Fambrough, Luke Johnson, Brett Dawson and Dan McDonald contributed to this column.