Heroic Waterboy Makes Everyone Feels Good

http://www.godvine.com/A-Waterboy-with-Down-Syndrome-Became-a-Football-Team-s-Hero-4152.html

This class on disability culture and disability rights has caused me to think so much more about things that I used to simply accept. I encountered this story through Facebook. It had received multiple likes and comments such as “awww” and “so sweet.” Before this class I would have thought the same and kept scrolling down my news feed. But, since taking this class with Prof. Lukin, I saw this video and paused. I didn’t know what to think of it anymore. One thing that I’m pretty sure of is that this town and this football team had good intentions. They obviously wanted to make this teammate happy, and it seems as though they did! I do however, think that it is a shame this is his first and last time ever being on the football field during a game. And during the last quarter. Of a game that was already won. If the score were tied up or not in their favor, would they have risked a win to let their teammate play? In the story the news anchor states”his teammates said they wanted to repay him.” Sounds like a team meeting was held to discuss this boy’s participation. A team meeting that did not include one of the teammates. As the football game plays out we see the players delicately hand the ball to the former water boy and them walk paternally and defensively alongside him as he makes his touchdown. The opposing team doesn’t dare intervene. This is all out of the best intentions. And the autistic player looks happy he really does. But there were news cameras staring at the team the whole time. Would such camaraderie be shown if the cameras weren’t rolling? Who knows. I just wish that equal opportunity had been genuinely offered throughout this water boy’s whole career.

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4 thoughts on “Heroic Waterboy Makes Everyone Feels Good

  1. I agree with Gabi’s viewpoint on this situation. I almost feel as if they are making him seem like this huge hero, and are giving him all this media attention solely because of his condition. They are not treating him as if he is your average high school senior on the football team, which at the end of the day is probably what he really wants. I think they are actually belittling his abilities in order to make him seem like he is the star player that he is for only a second. I do understand that he has probably wanted to feel more included on the team instead of always being on the sidelines as the water boy. I also, however, wish he was treated like the other players on the team instead of glorified the way he is through the media.

  2. This is a tricky situation. I agree that there is a fine line to walk between granting the autistic boy this moment of victory and “belittling his abilities”. If the score were tied up would they let him play? Absolutely not. Yes, I guess I’m again going to be the Debbie Downer (what’s new?). But I think we can all acknowledge that there is difference between equality — being teated as an equal — and recognizing one’s limits. Can a boy with a serious degree of autism be thrown into a competitive high school football game? Can I be thrown into a ring to fight a UFC fighter? Okay, that was a dumb comparison. But the answer I’m trying to get at is… no. It’s simply not realistic. And I don’t see that answer in any way “belittling abilities” — only accepting abilities. So what do I see when I watch this video? I see a boy who is as happy as can be with scoring the winning touchdown on a team of boys that he has been beside and looked up to for the past 4 years. Does he know that they were already way ahead in the score? Does he know that nobody attempted to tackle him? Does he care? The point I’m trying to get at with all these unnecessary rhetorical questions is that at the end of night… this boy has the support of his team, parents, school, and he is beyond thrilled. What else really matters? Of course we don’t know what happens when the cameras aren’t rolling. But from what I can see here… this is one pretty cool team.

  3. I agree that this is a tricky situation. To be fair, the boy was not necessarily a player on the team to begin with, he was the water boy. I agree with the comment above me, it is simply unrealistic to expect a severely autistic boy to be able to safely play a game of competitive high school football. He would be seriously injured at the least. I do not believe that the team made an effort to belittle his abilities, but instead highlighted the different abilities that the boy has. The game had already been won, so why shouldn’t this boy be given the opportunity to play when he otherwise wouldn’t? I do not at all think the team had any intentions of being condescending or media hungry, just good to the boy.

  4. In these types of situations, it seems as if there is no right thing to do. No matter what you do, someone gets offended. Some people view the team’s actions as either a way of belittling the abilities of the boy, or exploiting his disability in order to get media coverage, but I think the team just wanted to include him. The autistic boy has been a part of the team for four years. Yes, he was on the sidelines as the water boy, but he was always with the players, motivating and cheering them on. His teammates just wanted to give back. They wanted him to know that he was appreciated. Not every kind action is done to offend someone.

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