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I wasn’t going to write about the “inspiring” story that’s going viral now, where the basketball player tossed the ball to a boy with a disability – who played for the opposite team (you can watch it here). I’m just kind of sick of this stuff, frankly – the “inspiring” pieces floating around like glitter-slathered flotsam. All those kings and queens with Down syndrome. I just don’t know what to make of it, and I’m skeptical.

Besides, I wasn’t going to write about it because That Crazy Crippled Girl already wrote a brilliant, smashing piece that said everything I would have far better than I ever could – here’s the link, if you haven’t read it yet. I posted that on the blog facebook page the other day and that was where I was going to leave it.

Only…  a little conversation opened up in the comments there and on other threads that had me thinking a little. Scratch that – they had me thinking a lot.

There were the comments about how people with disabilities just aren’t ever going to be happy no matter what, there will always be disagreement. I’m not sure I agree with that – the one thing that I’ve always heard loud and clear (no pun intended) is that we want to be treated equally. Because we ARE equal. We are all human; we should be treated with equal opportunities, rights and privileges. We’re not asking to be passed the ball because we want some pity, not asking for a job because we have a disability; we’re asking for a shake just as fair as everyone else. Let the playing ground be level (which may necessitate some accommodations) and let us have our chance. That’s it.

But one of the comments was really interesting because Ginger spoke of competition and how much it sucked growing up, saying:

…then I start to wonder about… our culture of winning and losing. I realized that this bothers me more than the letting someone win. I kind of just hate that winning is so important. I stopped doing a lot of awesome things that I loved because the team didn’t want me there. I was making them lose. Yeah I learned a lesson: quit unless you’re really awesome and help your team win. I wonder what it would be  like to play just for the sheer love of the game? I wish there were more avenues for all of our children in that direction.

The Dignity of Loss is not something I find appealing. The dignity to screw up. To learn you’re not great at something but if you love it you can find new ways to do it. To find people who will play the way you play. Isn’t that how we find our community? I don’t have any answers really… I kind of hope that I raise [child with a disability] her like I do all my kids which is in a way that doesn’t make winning the end all anyway. And I guess that I kind of saw that in the gesture at first…that maybe the kid who passed the ball did so because for a moment he recognized someone who loved the game and wasn’t getting a chance to play. That maybe he realized winning wasn’t everything after all. Nor was losing.

I really thought that was a different way to look at it and it gave me a long pause. Then she goes on to say,

What this kid did would be awesome if we knew he’d do it for ANY kid who wasn’t getting to play. What makes the video grating, I think, is that he did it BECAUSE the other kid had a disability as opposed to because the game should be about love of the game not wining or losing. That’s what warms everyone’s hearts. If he did it with any other kid people would think he was nuts.

 There. I think she nailed it for me.

What do think about it all?

– some more conversations can be found on Rich Donovan’s facebook page and Louise’s blog, Bloom.

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  1. The youth with a disability was the team manager and hadn’t played all year. The coach put him in the game because it was the last game of the year and he thought it would mean a lot to him. So, the whole thing was a setup so to speak. The coach said in an interview that he would have put the kid in the game in the last minutes whether his team was winning or losing – we have to take him at his word. His teammates passed the ball to him because he was in the game for the first time all year. He missed all the shots. The opposing teammate who threw the ball to him threw it because he hadn’t made any of the other shots. Whether he would have done that if the game was closer and the ending bell wasn’t ringing, who knows. I’m not convinced that it wasn’t “about love of the game not winning or losing.”I suspect it was motivated, like most things in life, by a mix of many things.

    The fact that the video has gone viral with headlines like “heartwarming,” inspiring” etc., is tiring.

    1. Thanks for all that back history, Susan.

      And “tiring”, it is…. sigh.

  2. It really strikes me that the people who are talking about letting kids with disabilities fail and never giving them a leg-up (or anyone else I guess in life, cause these seem to be people who believe in survival of the fittest) are the people who ONLY have a physical disability, or only an isolated learning disability (not intellectual) or a disability that really only impacts them in one area and NOT their abilities across the board, especially intellectual.

    It’s easy for Crazy Crippled Girl to say she doesn’t need someone to patronize her by letting her play a competitive sport when she doesn’t have the skill level. As she says, she knows where her strengths lie. She’s been gifted, at birth, with abilities that she can excel at, though they may not be athletic.

    It’s not so easy for youth with disabilities who have multiple disabilities, who can’t speak, don’t have a reliable mode of communication plus have physical and intellectual disability. I’m talking about kids like my son who have no friends and aren’t able to “shine” in any area compared to typical peers (except in areas of the heart).

    Perhaps we should just let these kids know straight up what failures and losers they are. They’ll never be able to compete against us typical folk (and when I’m saying typical I’m including those with a physical disability who are able to achieve in other areas and find ways around their physical limits and pretty much lead normal lives). Those kind of disabilities are a piece of cake compared to what my son faces.

    Reading the depth of scorn from people with physical disabilities about this video (and I haven’t seen much from people with intell disability or their parents, probably because they have a true sense of what it’s like to be the most stigmatized of all people on the planet) makes me unbelievably sad.

    It’s almost like people with a physical disability or any other kind of disability that’s isolated to one area have their own kind of ableism and they can’t stand it if a person with intellectual disability isn’t able to perform at the level they can. They don’t want to be associated with that. They’re too concerned about the disability “brand” being associated with losers, with people who can’t “compete” and “produce.”

    Meriah — what do you mean you don’t know what to make of the Ds prom kings and queens (or, by implication, this young man in the video). Your daughter is still young. Hopefully she won’t face the kind of stigma that most youth/young adults with intell disability and multiple disabilities face — teens who are simply glad for the opportunity to feel like they belong — even if it lasts for only a few minutes on the basketball court or a night at the prom.

    1. Louise,

      I am so grateful to you for really making me see a different perspective. I have this tendency to not really consider what things might be or are like for people with ID, and ID along the full spectrum. I’m learning a lot from your perspective, thank you.

      About the kings and queens with Ds – it seems to be this fashionable thing now to have someone with an ID as king/queen. I am on the fence about that. I really don’t know enough to like/dislike this trend – and I suppose a lot depends on the people involved in each school, and what the honest intent is as well as the level of acceptance and inclusion that is actually going on in the school.

      I mentioned that in this post simply because there are a plethora of those stories floating around Facebook, come prom season. They are touted as so very “heartwarming” and “inspirational” in the same way that the video was.

      I see what you are saying though, and again, I thank you for showing me something I hadn’t thought of before.

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