It was without question, the greatest sporting spectacle I have ever witnessed in my life.
It was not a bunch of whiney, rich professional athletes catching a ball or hitting a little black disc around a frozen ice surface.
No, these were true athletes, competing for the love of the game and taking sportsmanship to a level I have never seen before.
It happened many years ago, before my wife and I were even married. We were walking though a park that had numerous sports fields when we happened across a soccer game.
When some people think of soccer, or football as it known everywhere else in the world and should be called that here, they sometimes think of hooligans, or team rivalries that go back decades, or over-paid athletes who roll around on the ground for 20 minutes if the opposing player even looks at them wrong.
But this contest boiled the game down to how it should be played. In fact, it was a good example of how life should be lived.
You see, both teams were made up of people with Down syndrome.
And these men and women were rocking that extra chromosome like it was nobody's business.
My wife and I couldn't help but sit on a grassy knoll and watch the most enjoyable sporting event I have ever seen.
When someone scored a goal, both sides cheered. If someone got hurt, the game stopped and both sides ran over to the injured party to make sure they were OK.
Once the injured player was up and about, it was pats on the back from everyone – no matter the colour of the jersey they wore.
One player in particular stands out – Brenda.
I do not know Brenda, I have never met Brenda and I have never see her since, but I will remember her forever.
Brenda was a forward and when she got the ball her coach would yell, “Kick the ball fast, Brenda.”
With steely determination and concentration etched in her features, she looked at the ball, she lined it up, she carefully took a few steps towards it and kicked it as hard as she could.
This was not a penalty kick where time is a luxury. This all happened over the course of several seconds of regular play.
Both teams stopped and waited for Brenda to kick the ball, and not one player moved until her foot met the ball.
Only then did the game resume.
This happened several times during the game and each time the coach would yell, “Kick the ball fast, Brenda.”
Brenda never did kick the ball fast, and no one ever tried to take the ball from her.
I don't know who won the game, and to be honest I really don't think anyone cared.
Everyone was on the field to enjoy each other's company and participate in a game where the main goal really was to have fun.
I have been fortunate enough to know a couple people with Down syndrome and they are the coolest people I have ever met.
Some brand them as handicapped, or worse.
But I often think we 'normal' people are the ones who are handicapped.
We go through life loaded down with prejudice, pride, greed, arrogance, hate, fear, anxiety...it's a long list.
We 'normal' people can be intolerably cruel to each. On occasion, we even kill each other over a silly game.
My wife and I stayed until the match was over and I have never felt so good about a sporting contest as I did that one.
You should try it sometimes, it is good for the soul.
copyright 2014, Darren Handschuh