[11/4/2019] Defying the Odds: Stories in Sports

This past week was packed with stories in sports: Tiger Woods, continuing his incredible comeback, tied for all-time PGA tour wins; a Washington Nationals fan became a hero for protecting his beer while still catching a home run ball (with his chest!); South Africa, by winning the Rugby World Cup under the leadership of a black captain, became a symbol of hope for a nation craving it; and hundreds of people with physical disabilities ran the New York City Marathon alongside the over 50,000 runners who participate in the race annually. Each of these events epitomizes what we love in sports: stories that overcome.

In sports, the story of how an individual overcomes adversity — be it physical, mental, or socioeconomic —proliferates quickly. Each of these sports events is highly broadcasted, seen by global audiences, and naturally shared in the social media-sphere. The man who caught the home run ball (with his chest! without spilling his beer!) is now officially “Bud Light guy,” featured widely in Internet memes and in Bud Light commercials overnight. This week, we examine the contagious power of sports stories, which are driven by not just players, but also by fans, world leaders, companies, and the governing sports organizations themselves.

By Eunju Namkung and Scott Talan

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, and other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Defying the Odds: Stories in Sports



The New Yorker: Meet the Eighty-Six-Year-Old Running the New York City Marathon

YES I CAN – Paralympics RIO 2016 – We’re The Superhumans!





  • Writing: What do you find to be the most compelling story in sports? Feel free to write about a specific event, person or team, or interpret this to be a broader question. Describe what makes this story compelling.
  • Debate: Can compelling stories in sports impact beyond the sport and truly influence social or cultural change?
  • Poll: What are the ways in which you learn about the latest in sports? (Select all that apply.)
    • News (e.g. traditional print publications, digital news sources, traditional broadcast news)
    • Sports news (like ESPN)
    • Social media
    • Word of mouth
    • Advertisements
    • Music
    • Other
  • Short Answer: How does learning more about an athlete (e.g. their past, their family story, their life “off-the-court” or beyond their sport) change how you perceive their performance in their sport?


Current Events Quiz

1. Tigers Woods made headlines on October 27th for ____________________.

a. finishing 18 holes on a course which no other player had ever completed

b. speaking transparently about past scandals through a series of Tweets

c. tying Sam Snead’s record for PGA Tour’s career titles leader

d. releasing a mixed media piece on how sports can change youth’s lives


2. During the latest World Series in which the Washington Nationals won, Jeff Adams became an Internet meme for catching a home run baseball with his chest and for not spilling a drop of the beers in either of his hands. What did Bud Light (the brand of beer Jeff was holding) do in response?

a. Bud Light sued him for making disparaging remarks about the beer in subsequent interviews.

b. Bud Light starred Jeff in a commercial in the days following the incident.

c. Bud Light offered subsidized beer for any fan wearing Nationals paraphernalia.

d. Bud Light refused to comment on the incident.


3. After winning the Rugby World Cup, South Africa’s captain, Siya Kolisi, the first black captain in the team’s history, said that the team discussed that “rugby shouldn’t be something that puts pressure on you. It should be something that creates _____.”

a. grit

b. hope

c. lucrative futures for children

d. freedom


4. Which of these statements is true about the New York City Marathon?

a. Anyone with physical disabilities can participate only if they are able to finish the entire course in under 7 hours.

b. In the 2019 race, 100 runners with physical disabilities was selectively picked to participate. They all finished the race.

c. In the 2019 race, over 300 people with physical disabilities participated, many of them finishing into the night.

d. In the 2019 race, runners with physical disabilities were welcome to participate as long as they did not require mobility devices (e.g. wheelchair, crutches) which were found to make it unsafe for other runners.


5. How did the National Lacrosse League (NLL) respond to recent incidents of racism against Native Americans involving Lyle Thompson?

a. The NLL asked Lyle Thompson to take a brief hiatus from the team until the situation deescalated.

b. The NLL refused to comment on the situation.

c. The NLL issued a press release affirming its respect for Native Americans and stated it will halt any further NLL games in certain regions that have been found to be unfriendly to Native American culture.

d. The NLL distributed “Back the Braid” shirts to give away to fans, and played videos on unity and Native culture.


Image credit: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Molly A. Burgess

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