October 31, 2002

Act of kindness speaks volumes about football’s spirit. Jake Porter, a mentally-handicapped high-school senior, scored a touchdown on his first play.

posted by pfuller to football at 08:51 AM - 9 comments

Part of me wonders about the whole "treat the handicapped as equals" thing, and part of me gets a big old lump in my throat and... Excuse me, I've got something in my eye.

posted by grum@work at 10:31 AM on October 31, 2002

Pretty awesome that the opposing team went along with it. What if the player were a girl who hadn't taken a snap all season though? Same spirit of cooperation?

posted by vito90 at 11:36 AM on October 31, 2002

Yeah. I have to admit I teared up at that too. Sounds like a really wonderful experience for everyone involved.

posted by tieguy at 12:24 PM on October 31, 2002

That's nice on the surface, but you have to be careful with stuff like this. As long as the kid never realizes that he didn't actually meet some challenge, that's all well and good. But if he learns that he only scored because everyone on the field let him, it can be very emotionally damaging. I understand that the intentions were good here, but I'd rather this sort of thing not happen. It smacks of pity. I worked with developmentally disabled kids for a few years when I graduated college, and I'm not an expert or anything, but I saw a couple of these "special favors" for the handicapped go very, very wrong. This might not be PC, but I think that this was a bad decision. This kid should be encouraged to shine in a more appropriate setting, like in Buddyball, or one of the other sports that can be played in one of the handicapped sports leagues that can be found in many areas now. And don't forget the Special Olympics. This way disabled kids can actually compete and overcome difficulties rather than just having a freebie thrown their way.

posted by Samsonov14 at 12:41 PM on October 31, 2002

According to this site, males with Fragile X generally have an IQ in the 40-to-60 range (moderately retarded). I would suspect that this individual knew exactly what was happening -- that he was being allowed to score as a gesture of thanks for having the courage to try out for the team. I agree that this would be borderline cruel if he was under the mistaken assumption that he had actually scored by himself. But I don't think that's the case -- obviously both sides were waving him towards the end zone. Anyway, count me among those with a lump in their throat.

posted by jmpeterson at 02:25 PM on October 31, 2002

Perhaps I'm cold hearted, but I had no lump in my throat. OK, reward a senior for going to practice everyday by putting him in a game when the result's not inquestion, but why let him score a touchdown? It's just condescending. There are probably players with lower IQ's playing in the NFL.

posted by gyc at 06:31 PM on October 31, 2002

I guess the debate has come down to this- try to fool the mentally handicapped kid into thinking he has scored a legit touchdown OR give some respect to a handicapped person who somehow worked himself onto a HS football program and show him a little respect. I vote for option B. Even thinking that the players and coaches tried to trick him shows your own attitude towards the handicapped. While looked at it under a different light, it wasn't the touchdown that was the point, it was just a way for the community to show how much they respected him for doing what he did. It's what is called a 'symbolic act'. Is that concept really that hard to grasp? For the love of God, please tell me what is wrong with that.

posted by ttrendel at 01:15 AM on November 01, 2002

TTrendel, I think the problem is that a guy with an IQ of 50 might not be on the boat when it comes to symbolism.

posted by Samsonov14 at 08:12 AM on November 01, 2002

espnradio.com has an interview with the coaches (scroll down the "Soul of the game"). their javascript makes a permalink kinda awkward but here it is.

posted by danostuporstar at 08:48 AM on November 01, 2002

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