The Herald Bulletin

April 8, 2013

George Bremer: Sometimes it’s more than a game


— I can’t watch the video of Jack Hoffman’s 69-yard touchdown run during the Nebraska spring game this weekend often enough.

The 7-year-old is being treated for brain cancer, and Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini sent him out on the field for the scrimmage’s final play.

After being guided to the correct position before the snap, Hoffman initially started running in the wrong direction after taking a handoff. But he was quickly re-routed, following his blockers around the end.

He broke into the open as he crossed the Big Ten logo near the 25-yard line, and he sprinted into the end zone in front of a convoy and red and white jerseys.

Hoffman was engulfed after scoring, and players from both the red and white teams patted him on the helmet as he was lifted into the air.

That moment, far more than Michigan’s men’s basketball team’s appearance in Monday night’s NCAA championship game, makes me proud to live in Big Ten country.

NFL Network analyst and best-selling author Mark Kriegel became so emotional discussing the play Monday morning that he could barely complete his sentences. It clearly pained Kriegel’s heart that a 7-year-old boy would have a “bucket list” — as mentioned by Jack’s father earlier during an on-air interview.

Kriegel pleaded with all teams at all levels to participate in moments like these whenever possible.

It’s a sentiment I whole-heartedly second. In fact, moments like this are the primary reason I chose sportswriting as a career.

Wins and losses sometimes seem like the end-all, be-all of this business. But sports are about so much more than statistics.

You see it in stories’ like Jack Hoffman’s. And you see in the response of the Louisville men’s basketball team after the horrific leg injury suffered by guard Kevin Ware.

All of the sudden fans of other schools were jumping onto the Cardinals’ bandwagon, not because of shooting percentages or turnover margins but because of human interest.

Moments like these transcend the games we play.

Hoffman’s inspirational run has garnered national attention. And with it has come increased awareness of pediatric brain cancer.

The more awareness, generally, the more funding for research. The more funding, the better chances for a cure.

We saw a similar story locally this fall when the Indianapolis Colts rallied around head coach Chuck Pagano and raised awareness for those battling leukemia.

We’ll see it again this week as the Anderson High School baseball team — and eight other county schools — compete in the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament and raise awareness for organ donation.

Championships are won and lost, but the truly special moments in sports last forever.

Spring games are simply glorified exhibitions. They don’t count in the standings, and they rarely garner much attention beyond the debut of a new coach or the pain of a notable injury.

That being said, it’s difficult to imagine Nebraska — after what it did for Jack Hoffman — having a bigger victory this season.

Contact George Bremer: 640-4831, george.bremer@heraldbulletin.com