The UNC Anti-Plaxicos: How the Tar Heels Helped Save a Life

Nathan BitnerSenior Analyst IDecember 1, 2008

New York Giants star wide receiver Plaxico Burress "shoots himself" in a nightclub. 

Reggie Bush's family is allegedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in "cash and merchandise" while Bush is still playing college football at USC, with his alleged knowledge and consent.

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones gets drunk (again) and gets in a fight (again), resulting in a suspension (again).

Michael Vick is convicted of money laundering, torturing and killing dogs, and several other felonies.

There are literally dozens of stories in college and professional athletics that detail the poor decision-making of selfish athletes who have put themselves above the law and above morality.

Some of the stories are sensationalized by the media (and consumers) with a rich appetite for blood, gore, sex, and the downfall of heroes.

The good guys, the athletes who act selflessly and charitably (and there are plenty of them, despite what you read), really don't get much ink. It's just not as interesting.

If this article gets 300 reads, I'll be shocked.

The North Carolina Tar Heels' Tyler Hansbrough, Deon Thompson, and others acted to save a man's life last week, but the story disappeared almost as fast as it went up, and, unless I just plain missed it, I didn't see a word on B/R. 

Here's how it went down:

After winning the Maui Invitational Championship in convincing fashion, the Heels were on their way back to Chapel Hill via an American Airlines flight. 

A man in coach class was found slumped over and unconscious, and when attempts to rouse him were unsuccessful, a worried flight attendant yelled out for some, "big, strong basketball players," knowing that Roy Williams' team was on board.

Hansbrough, Thompson, and UNC video coordinator Eric Hoots jumped up and rushed to the man's aid. I can picture the goofy Hansbrough rushing to the man as he does to an offensive rebound, all elbows and buttocks, giving up his body (and probably blocking out a few guys on his way).

Without hesitation, these young men lifted the unconscious Melvin Ridley chest-high and rushed him to the waiting paramedics. The plane had not yet taken off. 

Ridley, it turned out, had suffered a seizure. He had a history of diabetes and heart problems. And on this day, an act of goodwill by some "big, strong basketball players" helped ensure that life-saving health care workers could get to work on him as soon as possible.

Lester Banks, Ridley's cousin, wanted to be sure the North Carolina basketball players knew how much their help was appreciated.

"I wasn’t able to tell those players how much I appreciated their help," Banks told Yahoo! Sports. "We’re going to do everything we can to get in touch with them and to let them know how much (their actions) meant to us. They were class acts."

Roy Williams was equally impressed, stating that he "was proud to see how our guys responded. I’m sure there are some people who saw that and thought, 'Those are some really good kids on the North Carolina basketball team.'"

No, they didn't create world peace. Tyler Hansbrough isn't Mother Teresa. They didn't bring down a horde of terrorists. All they performed was a small act of kindness, the kind of act that really shouldn't be so surprising or unexpected.

Unfortunately, when I look at the sports news these days, I see far more random acts of violence than those of kindness. I see far more selfishness than selflessness.

It's partly the fault of the media that ignores those who do good and partly the fault of spoiled, rich athletes with an over-inflated sense of self-importance and a deflated sense of responsibility. Those tend to be the ones who do make the news.

Call this a puff piece if you want, but Roy Williams and the growing young men he coaches at UNC will be winning long after they're done cutting down the nets.