For sportswriters, the summer months are an interesting time.
On one hand, team sports slow down and games become fewer and fewer in between. On the other, it’s a chance to find bigger stories and get a little more personal with athletes and their parents.
With Newton County High School sports in a dormant state, it gave me a chance to look a little outside the county lines to athletes such as former Alcovy star Jameel Abdul-Mateen.
Abdul-Mateen, an All-American long jumper after participating in the NCAA national championships in Eugene, Ore., a couple of weeks ago, presented a chance to share a success story with his community. However, that chance turned into a much bigger success story.
After reading several articles about her son in The Covington News, Abdul-Mateen’s mother needed some more copies of those papers. In the afternoon, I got a call to come up front to see a visitor. As a writer, the walk to the front after such a call always feels like a mixed bag. It could be a request to run something in the paper to correct something or to recieve thanks for something.
This time it was a big thank you, but that wasn’t the exciting part.
Abdul-Mateen’s mother came in waving a flag with her son’s name on it that she picked up in Eugene, Ore. Her excitement was almost overwhelming in her recollection and sharing cellphone videos of Abdul-Mateen’s big race.
Then she told the story of how she managed to get time off of work, away from her classes at Troy University and come up with the robust price tag of a last-minute flight to Oregon.
When her co-workers, neighbors and classmates found out about Abdul-Mateen’s chance to become a national champion, they started donating a little here and a little there. Some gave $20 bills, some gave $1, but eventually, the pool built up and Abdul-Mateen was headed to the airport.
The tale was a touching one, and I told my co-workers it was my favorite visit I ever received.
It was great to see a mother revel in her son’s accomplishments, and a community rally around her enthusiasm to help out a family.
Sports sometimes seems to be about making a dollar and earning more notoriety. The decades economics are also seemingly more about saving for the newest iGadget so you can Tweet your distant family, rather than saving to actually see them. So to see a mother so excited about a genuine sports accomplishment, and people eager to help her see that accomplishment firsthand was fantastic.
Congratulations to Abdul-Mateen and all the other athletes who have reached such heights. Congratulations to his mother for getting to see him, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a parent. And congratulations to her friends and co-workers for reaching out and lending a helping hand.
If those gracious people haven’t seen her reaction, I will relay Abdul-Mateen’s mother’s reaction firsthand — exciting, fantastic, refreshing and priceless.