... even though he doesn't have any legs with which to kick.
America has shamelessly spent the past few months milking to death the non-story which is The Jason McElwain Saga. The autistic team manager for the b-ball team at suburban Rochester's Greece Athena High was pimped as "The Feel-Good Story of '06." The kid, through no fault of his own, was prostituted out to newspapers, magazines, quality time with President Bush and face time at one of the Cleveland Cavaliers' final home games (when the teen held up a jersey with his name and number on it), a whirlwind of publicity which culminated recently with Earvin Johnson making an appearance at Greece Athena to announce that his production company will make a movie about "J-Mac."
They already made that movie, Earv. It was called "Charly" -- and it won Cliff Robertson an Oscar for Best Actor nearly 40 years ago.
Then, they made another movie like that, Earv. They called that one "Rain Man."
Jeez ... if we leave it to Magic, we'll have a remake of "Awakenings" (with DeNiro as the autistic high school b-baller) ...
Look ... it was pretty easy for everyone to take the bait in the J-Mac fairy tale, which was accurately chronicled as a fraud by the Haystack right from the get-go.
However, the Worldwide Leader known as "EspyTime Theater" finally got its (stuff) together in a feature-story sense and used its airwaves to provide REAL emotion about REAL accomplishments.
What we're talking about is a story which is not contrived or artificial.
And, the Alexi Salamone story is anything but.
It's a lip-quiverer and an eye-moistener.
The SportsCenter feature which was aired during the late-Sunday/early-Monday broadcast was revealing in the sense that ESPN actually appeared to do some legwork for a story about somebody with no legs. We, the viewer, learned that Alexi was born to parents who lived near the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl which, 20 years ago, became an infamous Ukranian landmark for the explosion and meltdown which left thousands dead and thousands, maybe millions, more mutilated from the radiation.
Alexi was one of the babies born (14 months after the disaster) with legs which were twisted and non-functioning. Eventually, Alexi's legs were amputated -- but only after he'd been turned over to an orphanage by parents who could not care for him.
During the interview, Alexi made it clear that it was less of an orphanage than an "alley."
And, if Alexi had not been adopted by the Salamones and brought to his new home in the greater-Buffalo suburb of Grand Island, he eventually would have made the transition from orphanage (read: alley) to an asylum (read: death trap).
Instead, Alexi Salamone was the leading scorer for the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team at the Paralympic Winter Games at Torino.
Essentially, Alexi kicked ass.
Somewhere in the Constitution (or the Bible, I can't remember which) it is written that it's taboo to "compare" or "rank" life's hardships (i.e. Alexi vs. J-Mac).
In this caase, we can make an exception.
Considering what Alexi has endured, it's like comparing an ascent up the Matterhorn to difficulty with math homework.
This is no contest.
As the litmus test, when we watched the J-Mac story in its initial form (read: after someone peddled it to ESPN), we were unmoved.
I mean, so F-ing what.
A kid suits up and scores 20 points in the final four minutes of a game which was already a blowout. Yet, because his story is so "heartwarming," the kid is back on the bench during the sectional playoff games.
This was not J-Mac's fault. His coach exploited him ("Hey, Freak Show! Get in the game and get yer freak on!").
Then, when the games mattered in the playoffs, J-Mac could not be trusted to contribute because he might've gotten in the way. He might've messed up and gone all spastic. Or, he might've taken playing time away from the "normal" kids.
In the movie, Charly wasn't so lovable when the drugs made him "highly functional" ... and smarter than everybody else. Charly was lovable when he was a stooge and a dolt and a goof and a retard.
Earvin Johnson's movie will re-emphasize this theme (or it'll show J-Mac slam-dunking home the winning points in the championship game against al-Qaeda).
Back in the real world, my Mrs. PF7 grew up not too far from Grand Island -- and she occasionally shares stories of riding the Wild Mouse at the Fantasy Island park.
Mrs. PF7 also has stories of her experiences nearly 10 years ago working with wheelchair basketball players ... and those guys have gut-wrenching stories of how they became paraplegics or amputees.
I joked with the Mrs. any time that I saw McElvain on TV in another mini-promo for "he's an inspiration to us all" how when those images appeared on TV, another Vietnam vet fell out of his wheelchair and then tossed that wheelchair at the TV.
"Hey, even though shrapnel from an explosion severed your spinal cord and made you a paraplegic who cannot rise from your chair to give J-Mac a standing ovation, at least you're not a quadriplegic -- and, therefore, your arms function so that you may clap for Jason's 20 points in four minutes which made us believe in ourselves again."
That J-Mac movie is gonna totally suck -- especially when we see those choppy, between-class hallway scenes where J-Mac and his movie girlfriend, J-Lo, talk about the Poly Sci. midterm.