The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Unsung heroes

There wasn't much time left for the Capitals, and it was the deciding game seven. Washington was down two goals to none. Their season - which had earned them the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference - was now on the line.

When all seemed lost, though, Washington center Brooks Laich forced the puck into what had previously seemed to be an unassailable Montreal goal.

The Capitals were once again within striking distance, but 0:00 was fast approaching.

Washington caught a break just 30 seconds later when Montreal defender Ryan O'Byrne received a 2-minute penalty for high-sticking. For the remaining 1:44 of the game, Washington would have a one-man power play.

But it was desperation time for the Capitals - and they decided to press their advantage. To gain a two-man advantage on its offensive end, Washington pulled its goalie.

My friends and I huddled nervously around the television as we watched these events transpire. Admittedly, none of us were NHL faithfuls - but it was game seven, and it was our team.

As the seconds ticked, we saw Washington open its bag of tricks. Once or twice Montreal would get the puck and push it down the ice toward the goal - each time a gut wrenching slide that might spell the end of the Capitals' season if it was on target to the unprotected goal. Each time, though, it would go just wide and a redshirt would come skating down the ice to resume the Washington attack.

Again and again this cycle repeated itself, with the Capitals getting closer and closer to tying the game. And then we saw it - a Canadien got a good clip at the goal.

What a devastating experience, to see it all about to come crashing down - what a way for it all to end. Nicklas Backstrom was closing on it but ever so slowly.

Just at the last second, he went on the ice - completely laid out with his stick extended. The whole season rode on this scrappy yet astounding play

He just managed to save it by guiding it away from the goal with his stick.

My friends and I went nuts. For us, it was the play of the game. The Capitals - as you probably know - ended up losing, anyway. For me, though, I consider this largely irrelevant - perhaps even an insult to how heroic the play was.

Washington was already a long shot to win the game, even if the puck was saved. The highlight reel will show the three goals that were scored or Alex Ovechkin going coast to coast through almost the entire Canadien roster. It might even mention the Montreal goalie, who almost single-handedly won the series for the Canadiens. But Backstrom, who knew his team likely already had little chance of winning that game or that series, made an effort play to give Washington a chance at least.

Those are rarely the kind of plays that are remembered in sports. It is the flashy, offensive or show-boaty the media and fans recognize. Rarely does a good block by an offensive lineman get remembered on a long touchdown pass. Almost never does the cut-off man who was in the spot he needed to be on a long throw from right-field to get a runner out going home get mentioned as instrumental.

We remember Michael Jordan who led the NBA in scoring for ten of the seasons he played professional basketball. Of course we don't forget Jerry Rice, who scored 208 all-purpose career touchdowns. We even remember fantastic goal-keeping from players such as Jim Craig and Gianluigi Buffon.

What we don't see are the small plays that happen - the ones that elevate the stars to make their mark. And then we don't remember the people who made them.

Like Bradley Sellers. I would wager many readers don't know who he is.

Or Freddie Solomon. If anyone has more than a superficial knowledge of who he is, I would be astounded.

But I can tell you who they are: unsung heroes.

Sellers was the Chicago Bull who inbounded the ball to Michael Jordan on the play that has come to be known as "The Shot."

Solomon was the primary option in "red-right-tight," the play that Joe Montana called on a touchdown pass to Dwight Clark - the play that's come to be called "The Catch."

I don't necessarily blame anyone for the lack of recognition these unsung heroes receive. We live in a world that celebrates those who can accomplish the impossible. A good inbounds pass during a crucial moment is expected. The coverage that Solomon drew to get Clark open is nowhere near as recognized as the catch Clark made.

But what about all those guys who show up everyday, get the job done and go home? Steve Hutchinson. Kris Burd. Steve Kerr. Matt White. Will Sherrill. Vijay Singh. Steve Breaston. Jamie Moyer. Jabar Gaffney. Ariana Moorer. The list, as you would expect, goes on.

Unsung heroes. These guys may be remembered - or they may be forgotten. They may have fleeting moments of glory, but more often, it is the people surrounding them who receive recognition. Unsung heroes are consistent, reliable. They do what they are supposed to do. They get the job done and don't act like Terrell Owens. Or Deion Sanders. Or Kobe Bryant. Often they don't want the attention and - always - they don't even need it.

But it doesn't stop with sports. There are unsung heroes all over the place.

What about the bus drivers who, in a very literal sense, make the University go round.

If you are in the Engineering school, you may know Mary Lane and Carol Frey. They get the job done. Always.

As recently as last year, George Gelnovatch was one of the lowest paid coaches at Virginia.

And then take The Cavalier Daily. I know this next part will seem self-serving, but there couldn't be a better example of unsung heroes. About 100 staffers who put out a paper five days a week. And really, it's 20 to 25 really dedicated people who are there day in and day out. The writers are definitely unsung heroes, but even more so are the editors. Other than a tiny staff box with very small print, you never see the managing editor's name. Or the assistant managing editors. Or the production editor. Or the operations manager. And don't even get me started on the copy editors, whose unenviable job it is to read through every article and check every fact. Talk about a thankless job, but one that, for a newspaper, could be the most important. The Cavalier Daily comes out everyday rain or shine. Trust me on this part, for I once had to drive in the middle of the night during a blizzard to Culpeper, pick up the papers and deliver them all across Grounds because our courier thought the weather was too bad. I barely made it to my 9 a.m. class the next day. No one thinks about how great the paper is when it just does what it is supposed to do. That 99 percent of the time when it reports the news as fairly and accurately as possible. It is only that 1 percent of the time - the Hokie For A Weekends, the June Bugs, the Ethiopian Food Fights - that all of the sudden The Cavalier Daily gets recognition. Or when the sports section forgets to cover women's crew. Or the club polo team. Or women's ice hockey.

But I know other organizations are the same way. The University Guides. Who cares about the Honor Committee except when it screws up? No one remembers all the good things Student Council does, only the things it doesn't do.

When we all graduate, we love to think we are going on to greatness. To be the president. To be CEOs. To be Rick Reilly. To be the ambassador to France. Or Johnny Cochrain.

I love to think the same for myself. For the longest time, the thought that I would be just another average guy scared me.

What was I thinking? I can still be a father and a brother. A son. A casual sports fan. A five-figure, 9-to-5-er. A husband. A friend.

All the lives I can touch as an unsung hero are endless. It would be great to be Michael Jordan, but being Bradley Sellers would be more than OK, too. So what do I say to my fellow fourth-year students as we go on into the real world? What do I say to the underclassmen who will soon join us?

Go forth and seek immortality, but be far from ashamed if you find yourself as an unsung hero. What matters is what you take home at the end of the day. You define your own worth. Go be a hero to your boss. Go be a hero to your family. Go be a hero to your friends. Go be the hero of your own life.

Comments