There were a lot of really depressing stories from the world of sports this year. Famous athletes were exposed as cheaters, racists, and even murderers. And at times, it seemed like we couldn’t go more than a couple of days without doing a story about something tragic or disheartening
However, for nearly every negative story, there was at least one that lifted the spirits and reminded us that humanity is, in spite of it all, fundamentally good. And today, with Christmas just around the corner, we thought we’d send you into the weekend on a happy note by recapping the most amazing feel-good stories of 2013. If these stories don’t warm your heart up, nothing will.
Back in February, when Mike Napoli left the Texas Rangers via free agency, the parents of five-year-old Cade Johnson knew their son was going to be devastated. The boy is a die-hard Rangers fan, and Mike Napoli was his favorite player. So they had the foresight to have a camera rolling when they broke the news to him.
Well, as you might expect, video of the poor boy crying his eyes out over the departure of his favorite player went viral, and it eventually it would up in Mike Napoli's Twitter feed.
So what did Napoli do? He got in touch with the Johnsons and sent his biggest fan not one but two autographed jerseys—one from the Rangers, and one from the Red Sox.
"Nobody likes to see a child cry," Napoli explained. "Especially over me. I wanted Cade to know how much players really do appreciate fans. We were all fans at his age so I sort of understood why he was upset."
This is how grown men who get paid millions of dollars to play baseball should be—humble and appreciative. Napoli is pure class.
13. Napoli Cares
You know what's great about this story? It shows what a difference the smallest kind gesture can make.
A couple weeks ago the Minnesota Wild's Charlie Coyle was standing by the glass during the pre-game skate when a little kid tapped to get his attention. All Coyle did was look over at the kid, crack a subtle smile, and wave–something that literally took five seconds out of his day—and it absolutely made the little dude's day.
Now, obviously, you and I are not pro athletes, and cute little kids aren't looking at us and begging for autographs or anything. But the lesson is still the same: you never know when something as simple as a smile could brighten someone's day.
12. A Simple Wave
Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson didn't have a lot growing up, which means Christmas was always a hard time of year. For that reason, every year Johnson gives a group of needy children the thrill of their lives by taking them to a Toys 'R' Us and letting them run wild for 80 seconds.
Obviously, getting a bunch of stuff isn't going to make these kids' lives truly better. But that's not really the point. The point is just to give them a few days of pure, unadulterated joy in which they can forget about the hardships of life for once—something that Johnson himself probably always wanted.
11. Andre Goes Shopping
Back in April, a 7-year-old cancer patient named Jack Hoffman got to do something he'll never forget. In front of 60,000 cheering fans at the Nebraska Cornhuskers spring game, Jack got to come onto the field and score a 69-yard touchdown.
Video of this incredible moment went viral, and from there Hoffman's year only got better. He would go on to meet President Obama, get his very own Upper Deck trading card, and win an ESPY Award for "Best Moment."
10. Jack's Touchdown
Back in 2012, the parents of Ted Kremer, a 29-year-old die-hard Cincinnati Reds fan with Down syndrome, went to a charity auction and bought their son the opportunity to be a bat boy for the Cincinnati Reds for a day. So on August 17, 2012, Kremer put on a Reds uniform and had the best day of his life.
However, that wouldn't be the last time Kremer stepped foot in the Reds dugout. As it turned out, the Reds loved Teddy so much that they invited him back in 2013.
The Reds fanatic accepted the invitation, but he asked for two things in return. First, he wanted the pitching staff to strike out 11 batters so everyone at the game would get free pizza. Second, he asked third baseman Todd Frazier to hit him a home run.
Well, as you can probably guess, that's exactly what Todd Frazier did.
After the game, this is what Frazier had to say:
“It was great how excited — that look, I started smiling even before I hit home plate because I knew it. They said he forgot to pick the bat up, so the umpire was yelling at him. It was such a great a great guy. You can’t get mad — even if you have a terrible day. How can you be mad when you’ve got a guy like that around?”
9. Todd Frazier's Home Run
When we're busily going about our daily lives, it's easy to get self-involved and start complaining about everything—that guy who almost sat through the green light, the woman who can't find her coupon and is holding up the line at the grocery store, the idiot at McDonalds who put onions on your Big Mac even though you explicitly asked for no onions. Then you come across a story like this one about Patience Beard. Life handed her a pretty major lemon, and she just turned around and made a huge pitcher of lemonade.
8. Cheer Inspiration
In September, Dom Tiberi, who covers Ohio State for Columbus's 10TV News, suffered a personal tragedy you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy: his 21-year-old daughter, Maria, was killed in a car accident.
Dom obviously took some time off after that to grieve with his family. However, when he did return to work covering OSU football, the players and coaches made a very special effort to let him know he and his family were in his thoughts and prayers.
Sometimes human beings are awful, but sometimes we get it right. And the OSU football team got it right.
7. Buckeyes Comfort Dom Tiberi
All too often we hear stories about kids being bullied and made to feel like outcasts. Sometimes, this even ends in tragedy, with kids taking their own lives or those of others. However, this year we were treated to a couple of wonderful stories about young people lifting their peers up instead of tearing them down.
This was one of them. In September, the players and coaches of the Cecelia High School football team teamed up with the players and coaches of Notre Dame High to give 16-year-old Shae Stelly—who sufferes from muscular dystrophy—something he'd always wanted: the chance to play football for his school.
That's pretty special stuff. And apparently it rubbed off...
6. Inspirational High School Football
Yep, that's right. It's another story about a football team conspiring to give one of their own an experience he would never forget.
Michigan middle schooler Keith Orr has some learning and behavioral difficulties, so his parents signed him up for football in the hope that the discipline and social interaction would be good for him.
It's worked. Rather than push Orr away because he is different, the team has embraced him as one of their own. Then, last month, the kids drew up a plan to get their friend Keith a touchdown and put it into action.
With kids like these out there, maybe there is hope for the future after all.
5. Inspirational Middle School Football
Tobias Bass of Oklahoma City is just 10 years old, but this fall he did something absolutely remarkable. He wrote a letter to a local television news team explaining that he needed help to do something special for his older brother, Titus, who suffers from cerebral palsy. You see, Tobias wanted to run with his brother in a charity 5k race, but he needed a jogging stroller big enough for Titus.
Well, the folks at New 9 took care of that. They put out a call for help, somebody donated a special wheelchair, and Tobias ran the race with his brother.
Again, this kid is only ten. Amazing, right?
4. Brotherly Love
This one was one of my personal favorites this year. After a game against the Giants at AT&T park, Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach told Kemp about a Dodgers fan he'd met that night who was "fighting a tough battle." So what did Kemp do? He went out to say hello. Then he autographed a baseball. Then he gave the fan his hat...and jersey...and shoes.
Seriously, it was just ridiculously awesome. Well done, Matt Kemp.
3. Matt Kemp Gives the Shirt Off His Back
The Boston Marathon Bombing was a horrible tragedy that shook the city of Boston to its core. However, amidst the pain and suffering, there were also stories of courage, compassion, and resilience. And probably the best example is the story of Carlos Arredondo—a.k.a. the cowboy hat hero.
Arredondo was at the marathon that day volunteering and cheering on runners from the National Guard who were running in memory of fallen soldiers—soldiers like his son, Alex, who was killed in Iraq in 2004. When the bombs exploded at the finish line just before 3:00 p.m., Arredondo ran into the chaos to help. After helping removed some fencing so emergency workers could get through and comforting a young woman, he came across a 27-year-old man named Jeffrey Bauman.
Bauman was lying in the street, both of his legs blown off. Arredondo comforted him and tied tourniquets to help slow the bleeding. Then he helped him into a wheelchair and rushed him to a first aid tent, refusing to leave his side until he was in an ambulance and on his way to the hospital.
At first, Bauman didn't know who his hero was. However, a week later they were reunited, and eventually they would throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game together.
Humanity 1, Terrorists 0
You can read more about this amazing story here.
2. Heroism Amidst Tragedy
This video wasn't filmed or uploaded to YouTube this year. It was from 2012. However, it was this year that the video was shown at a hockey tournament for kids with special needs, and it was this year that it went viral and touched hearts all across the globe. And judging by the 41,000 likes our post got on Facebook, yeah, I'd say this is the feel-good sports story of the year.