Scarpa's story illustrates the important role sports can play in life

A former Board of Education member in Ledyard, chafed over a recent column proposed cuts to some high school sports in town, sent this in an e-mail:

"I have held a few jobs in my time. Not once during any interview was I ever asked how fast I could run, if I could pitch, dribble or kick a ball."

Retort: Maybe if you ever learned how to run, pitch, dribble or kick - and perhaps did so within the team concept - you could have stuck to one job.

No, really.

I've had enough of trying to justify why athletics belong within our educational framework. The aforementioned email even went on to suggest that intramurals should be sufficient for everyone.

Praise the Lord and pass the Jack Daniel's.

OK. So converting the more obtuse members of society, elected or otherwise, is a can't win. Besides, it's Herculean, if for no other reason than the evidence is largely anecdotal. You know. Sports teach teamwork, discipline, dedication, hard work … and then it sounds like some droning speech at a dinner. Second verse, same as the first.

And just when I was hoping a few of the baseball sabermetricians could invent a stat that quantifies the advantages of playing sports in your formative years - and why or copping out with pay to participate is relinquishing a responsibility to the community - along came my friend Laura Scarpa.

The two-minute drill on Laura: Former softball player at East Lyme High. Played on the great Judy Deeb's state championship team in 1994. Always wise beyond her years. All grown up now. Operating room nurse at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.

And one more thing:

She has cancer.

Discovered it in mid-April.

On her 35th birthday.

This is what Laura said last week, preparing for the battle of her young life:

"I want everyone to know how much sports are helping me," she said. "Being an athlete growing up helps me with my mindset. I look at this like, 'game on.' I'm going to do it. I'm confident about it. I'll be disciplined. That's what sports taught me. That competitive spirit."

Bravo, Laura.

You fight the fight and we're there with you.

Scarpa's story invites us to spend a moment in reflection.

Everybody.

Is she alone in using "that competitive spirit" learned from the courts and fields in everyday life? As she fights for it?

I think not.

This is why taxpayers and elected officials who give the dismissive wave of sports should think next time: Do you really know what you're doing?

Do you?

Because whatever else you believe about sports and their place, believe this: Their lessons, guidance, inspiration and cautionary tales endure. They are voyages of self-discovery that bind because they require real-time decisions under the duress of competition. They meld different people of different backgrounds with different agendas and different personalities, all requiring cooperation. Which sounds like any workplace.

And in some cases, sports provide a foundation to fight for your life.

Scarpa's story requires neither intrinsic knowledge of sports nor a penchant to appreciate them. But it does suggest a very real place in the educational system for them. Are they a privilege? Sure. But their mere offering - free of charge - to young people who understand their place is a necessity.

I'd argue the same for the arts.

They are in schools because they are part of an educational plan.

And not to be some political pawn.

Or victim of taxpayer guilt.

Or neglect.

This is way beyond Ledyard, folks. They're talking about cutting sports in East Lyme, too. The very town where Scarpa was educated. The very thing that might save her life. So ask yourselves, East Lymers. All of you taxpayers and elected officials who think cutting sports is a good idea:

Do you really know what you're doing?

And to the former board member in Ledyard who was never asked if she could run, dribble, pass or kick:

Damn good thing Laura Scarpa can.

She'll be around, God willing, 80 more years because of it.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

 

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