Monday, March 21, 2011

“The Comeback Kid”

By Chartese Burnett

In the world of sports, we often hear of great comebacks, including come-from-behind wins after a team has trailed its opponent in a matchup, a team that makes it to the playoffs after a dismal regular season, or a franchise that has been a perennial loser and then turns its fate around and claims victories season after season. Comebacks almost always tickle our fancy, and it makes us realize that, against all odds, great things can happen. Baseball fans may remember the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who were down 0-3 games to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, and then in game 4 launched a comeback, and went on to claim the remaining three games, clinching arguably the single biggest comeback in baseball playoff history. They went on the win the World Series when they swept the St. Louis Cardinals to end an 86-year championship drought.

A few years earlier in 1993, on the gridiron, in the 1993 AFC wild card playoff game, the Buffalo Bills were down 35-3 to the Houston Oilers in the second half. Frank Reich, a backup quarterback for the Bills, subbing for the injured starter in Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, and with their star running back out with a hip injury, threw for four touchdowns and led his team to a win in overtime.

I only mention here a couple of great comebacks. However, avid sports fans can certainly re-count dozens more. Today, I’d like to focus our attention on a “different” kind of comeback. I am talking about those circumstances that had nothing to do with on-the-court or on-the field feats; but everything to do the amazing tenacity demonstrated by some of the world’s finest athletes – in overcoming adversity and demonstrating why they are true champions and real heroes and heroines.

The late great civil rights leader, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, once said, “The ultimate measure of man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” So many courageous, committed and amazing things were born out of adversity, challenge and even defeat.

Having attended Georgetown University and subsequently returned to serve as Sports Information in the late 80’s, I have followed for many years the career of NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning. Aside from being a “class act”, a dedicated and committed community activist and philanthropist, “Zo” has defeated the odds and has not only beaten, but has STOMPED adversity. If you’re not familiar with his story, here it is in brief: Prior to the start of the 2000-2001 NBA season, Mourning was diagnosed with a kidney disease which initially caused him to miss five months of that basketball season. However, he continued to defy the odds as his professional basketball career endured. Alonzo eventually underwent a kidney transplant, but later went on to win his first NBA championship with the Miami Heat in 2006. In 2009, Mourning was the first player in Heat history to have his number “33” retired.

That brings us to recent history. On Saturday night, many of us in the Washington, DC region, and the world (by virtue of the 24-hour news cycle, social media, and the good ‘ole traditional media) became of aware of an amazing comeback by one DC United soccer player in Charlie Davies. I immediately called him “THE Comeback Kid” after watching the replays (via traditional means of watching SportsCenter on television) of his exploits on the field in leading the DC United to a 3-1 debut win over the Columbus Crew. In front of a crowd of 18,132 at RFK Stadium, Davies scored twice, once on a penalty kick and another with his speed.

But here’s why this kid’s performance is awe-inspiring and truly ranks, in my mind, as one of the most thrilling comebacks in sports. In his rookie season with MLS, almost a year and a half ago, Davies was in a fatal car crash that almost took his life – when his car was struck by a drunken driver (the driver’s best friend tragically died in the accident). His body was broken and he suffered life-threatening injuries – the doctors thought Davies might never step onto a soccer field again. However, the first time he did – on Saturday night – he came back in a remarkable fashion. When the final whistle sounded at RFK Stadium Saturday night, Charlie Davies’ prayers had been answered. He gazed into the stands and cried. I am sure some fans cried; some viewers cried, and I admit, I cried as I watched replays of someone who achieved what seemed almost impossible.

That’s what comebacks are all about.

Chartese Burnett is Director of Non-Profit PR at Maroon PR. Contact her at

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