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Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: A real 'W' of a moment

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Columnsig924

Sometimes the best ideas are stolen ideas.

Years ago, I was working as a sportswriter at a local daily paper, someone had the bright idea to end the year by having each one of us write about a certain special moment or behind-the-scenes occurrence from that year.

It could be funny, touching or sentimental.

When I covered the Cubs, I did everything from Todd Wellemeyer’s belching ability to racing home after a Cubs workout to watch my son play in an All-Star game.

I loved writing those stories and when I became editor of the Reporter, it took me my second year to get my rear in gear and write one for 2014 and shared a tale about columnist Don C. White professing his love for his grandson during a December photo shoot after Don. C. spent way too much time the hospital mending from open-heart surgery.

So I am taking that stolen idea from years gone by (does anyone even remember Todd Wellemeyer anymore?) and bringing it back to the sports pages.

If took me all of a half a moment to come up with my favorite moment of 2015.

On Oct. 8, St. Laurence senior football player Alex Martinez had just been told his Chicago firefighter father, Rich, died suddenly at age 48. Alex tweeted to the world “My heart is broken in a million pieces.”

He was scheduled to be the starting quarterback the next night at Aurora Christian.

I planned on shooting photos at two other games and writing about one of them. So I called an audible and made a quick change of plans and shot a quarter of the Richards-Eisenhower game in Blue Island and headed to far west Aurora to see if he would play and how the team was holding up through this tragedy.

Well, the route from Blue Island to Aurora on a Friday night is filled with traffic and it took a while to get there.

I missed the pregame moment of silence that the Aurora school did for Martinez and his family.

When I got there late in the first quarter, he was indeed playing and playing pretty well.

Martinez threw for 202 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score as the Vikings won 63-24 for their fifth win in a row.

Then came the magic moment.

After the game, coach Harold Blackmon gathered the boys near the south end zone gave a speech and had Martinez stand up.

A couple of his pals presented him with this big box and Alex opened it up.

Inside was a team-autographed ‘W’ banner which was made popular by the Cubs, who happened to be playing St. Louis in the playoffs that night.

Martinez had a huge smile as he unfurled the huge ‘W.’

It was a moment you don’t see on a football field. It was a great moment of pure joy, camaraderie and offered some temporary relief during a dreadful 24-hour period.

“That was great for them to do that,” Martinez said.

Blackmon said the banner was one of the players’ ideas.

“Our kids really embrace family,” the coach said. “We all grieve with Alex. In the pregame speech we said for a few hours we wanted to get him to normalcy and doing something that’s fun. Alex’s dad loves the Cubs so they decided to give him a banner. We take care of our own.’’

They took care of their own and provided one of the best moments of 2015.