Landan Mug

Think about the purest, most unblemished thing you can imagine. Maybe it’s a baby’s smile and the innocence of a child, or maybe the sweet smell of your favorite food. It can be absolutely anything.

For me, that thing is – and always will be – the unifying and cleansing nature of sports. If I wasn’t in school or doing homework as a young child and teenager, I was on a court or field. Playing sports allowed me to take my mind off a fight with a friend, an upcoming test, or anything that was vexing or frustrating me on that particular day or night.

And as I’ve gotten older, that feeling has only intensified. It grows with each high school football, baseball, basketball, and softball game or soccer match that I’ve covered since beginning my journey as a reporter nearly eight years ago. There’s something so unifying, inspiring, and pure about seeing these young men and women competing simply because they love the game – and about the support they receive from the communities that they unite.

Last weekend, I had the privilege and honor of following the Booker T. Washington boys’ basketball team to the Alamodome in San Antonio as they embarked on their first trip to the state tournament as a member of the UIL. And though they would lose in the Class 4A final to Oak Cliff Faith Family Academy, the trip reminded me of something. It took me back to my days as a young athlete, and also to what it meant to have the support of those around me. Whether it was my parents, my sister, or my school – that feeling as an athlete is second-to-none next to winning a championship.

What’s more, it served to remind me of the healing and unifying nature of sports. Booker T. Washington wasn’t just playing for themselves – they were playing for an entire school, and for the entire community in Houston. As I spoke with head coach Vincent Grayson and several players prior to the tournament, you could tell that they knew just how much the run meant to not just them, but their school and community.

And with the turmoil and uncertainty hanging over the Houston Independent School District amidst the state takeover - which was announced Wednesday morning - the Houston community needed something to rally behind. And they found it in this playoff run, and it showed in their support.

As I sat there along press row at floor level of the Alamodome and looked behind me and across the arena – especially Saturday night in the state title game – nearly every seat that could be filled was filled. Barely an empty seat in the house. That was a continuation of the spirit shown just days earlier, when a contingent showed up to send the Eagles off to San Antonio.

All in all, it was an amazing weekend. And not just because I got to cover a state tournament for the first time in my reporting career – though that was certainly a thrill, and I am blessed beyond measure that The Leader gives me an opportunity to have such chances.

No, I’d mainly like to thank the Booker T. Washington Eagles boys’ basketball team, their coaches, and the community who supports them that we all hold most dear.

This past weekend, you all reminded me about the purity of youth sports, and about the unifying and healing nature I have always known they possessed – but can sometimes lose sight of in the hustle and bustle.

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