Sports can be viewed as metaphor for life

Ernest Hemingway often used to convey his themes through sport as metaphor for life. It has since become a common motif which sports commentators throw around like pennies.

However, every once in a while, an account comes along that uniquely fits the allegorical frame: A tale of life as metaphor for sport.

Picking my Tribune up last Sunday morning, I started glancing through the headlines. I usually go to the sports section first. I figure we put up with doom and gloom for most of the week, so we should start the morning off right with something meaningless (like Fruit Loops for breakfast.)

I pulled out the sports section and was immediately assaulted by one of the most commercialized headlines of all time. It read: “Bills – Redskins: A match made in NFL heaven” That’s an understatement! If you have to die to reach heaven, then SuperBowl XXVI was dead on arrival.

Two other front page headlines also were just as perturbing “De Paul escapes St. Louis in OT” and “Tyson promise, potential unfulfilled” Is there any suspense in either of these stories? De Paul is always almost losing if not losing, and sports fans have been predicting for a decade that Mike Tyson would end up fighting for a captive audience.

I was about to give up on sports altogether and move on to another superfluous segment of the paper (business) when a story, buried deep in the firestarter we call a sports section, caught my eye.

The story was about Dave Cowart, a young man who is swimming in his senior year for Lyons Township High School. Cowart’s team won the Downer’s Grove Invitational last Saturday, and he took first place in the 500 yard freestyle.

There was nothing extremely mind blowing about this story placed on page 17 of an 18-page sports section except, of course, for one peculiar twist.

Cowart, 17, was diagnosed with malignant thyroid cancer just over a year ago. He overcame the cancer which threatened his 16-year-old life and has since rebounded to lead his team into state competition.

Although he was happy to win Saturday, he took it in stride. “It really makes you change your perspective on a lot of things. I was fortunate the surgery removed all the cancerous growth.”

“At Children’s Memorial Hospital (in Chicago), I roomed with a 12-year-old boy named Jesus. He had leukemia and was too sick to talk. He was a really nice kid who got dealt a bad hand in life,” Cowart told the Tribune.

The swimmer said he still wants to do well in state and help the Lions all he can, but that he doesn’t put as much emphasis on the things that once dominated his life.

When I finished reading the article, I felt disappointed that the Tribune had “buried” the piece in favor of pro sports and college hoops. Cowart’s story is one with the makings of a fairy tale. For thousands of Americans, the story ends on a far darker and more tragic note.

Cowart has an edge on most Americans. He has found how precious and delicate mortality is and how fast life can be cut short.

It was a reminder of how really relative time and life actually are in this world: how little time we have to do so much.