Stephens: Tee’s big night joyful for everyone

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By Brad Stephens

GOSHEN – Sports provide the full range of emotions, but too often it’s the negative emotions we see on display.

The rage from a parent yelling at an official, the disappointment of an unexpected loss, the sadness of a season coming to an end – the negatives are easy to spot.

But Friday at North Oldham we got to see an emotion you don’t often see on a court or field, but one that’s as noticeable as any.

We saw pure joy.

The joy was courtesy of Tee Salinas, North’s longtime boys basketball student manager who put on a uniform and started for the Mustangs Friday. 

But the joy wasn’t reserved for Salinas. He shared it with all of us.

Salinas shared the joy with his classmates, who turned out with their biggest numbers of the season to watch him play. They did so wearing white t-shirts bearing his face and holding up signs with encouraging messages.

He shared the joy with the community, who spent a week trying to get the North senior on Sports Center. Many of those people tweeting “#GetTee OnSportsCenter” or coming to the game to watch him had never even met him – including those who play for or attend rival schools.

But most importantly Salinas shared his joy with a group of which he’s been a part the last seven years – the Mustang basketball team.

When you looked at the team during Friday’s pregame introductions, it wasn’t just Salinas who had a grin on his face. All the North players and coaches were cheering and smiling when he was introduced.

Then when he made his big basket we saw a burst of pure, unencumbered joy from the team. The players rushed across the floor to mob Salinas in the same manner you’d see a team mob a player after hitting a shot to win a state championship.

They bounced up and down and shifted around the court, celebrating a guy who’d always been in the background.

Ever since sixth grade Salinas has been a behind-the-scenes star for North, whether running the practice clock, giving out water or cheering on his team.

Friday those Mustang veterans like Trevor Burton, Justin Cundiff and Adam Klingeman who’d been around Salinas for years got to turn around and cheer for him as he’d so often done for them.

The only drawback from the night was that North couldn’t beat DeSales and give Salinas a win.

But what the school, community and team did give him was worth a lot more than a winning number on the scoreboard.

They gave the gift of joy and we all received plenty in return.