Nearly 20 years ago, a young athlete was predicted to have quite the impact on mankind.
“Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity,” Earl Woods told Sports Illustrated in 1996, after the magazine named his son Sportsman of the Year. The proud papa declared that Tiger Woods would out-do Buddha, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela because “he has a larger forum than any of them.”
Tiger hasn’t come close to reaching that far-out forecast.
Right now, you could argue that he trails a 13-year-old girl.
Mo’ne Davis is no more likely than Woods to found a major religion, lead a political revolution or win a Nobel Peace Prize. But the Little League star just taught a powerful lesson on compassion and forgiveness, done so well that grown-ups are struggling to comprehend it.
An ignoramus named Joey Casselberry, who played for Bloomsburg University’s baseball team, defamed Davis last week with a vile reference in a since-deleted tweet – “Disney is making a movie about Mo’ne Davis? WHAT A JOKE. That slut got rocked by Nevada.” That sparked a flurry of shocked and angry responses on social media, roasting him for degrading someone who has done nothing wrong since pitching a shutout in the Little League World Series and becoming a celebrity last summer.
The outrage led Casselberry to quickly apologize, tweeting “I couldn’t be more sorry about my actions … I please ask you to [f]orgive me and truly understand that I am in no way shape or form a sexist and I am a huge fan of Mo’ne. She was quite an inspiration.”
Bloomsburg University wasn’t impressed and dismissed Casselberry from the team.
Remarkably, Davis asked for forgiveness on the dolt’s behalf, emailing the school to petition for his reinstatement.
“Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone deserves a second chance,” she told ESPN. “I know he didn’t mean it in that type of way, and I know a lot of people get tired of seeing me on TV, but sometimes you’ve just gotta think about what you’re doing before you actually do it.
“It hurt on my part, but he hurt even more. If it was me, I would want to take that back. I know how hard he’s worked. Why not give him a second chance?”
People much older than Davis can struggle to be so magnanimous. Then again, she has exhibited exceptional poise and maturity since she burst onto the national stage. The grace is one reason – her extraordinary athleticism is another – that Disney Channel is developing “Throw Like Mo,” a biographical film
But it’s not all about Mo.
She’s using her star power to aid impoverished girls around the world. In collaboration with the charities Make A Difference Every Day and Because I Am a Girl, Davis has endorsed a new line of sneakers with 15 percent of the proceeds going toward the cause.
“I never thought at the age of 13 I’d be a role model,” she said in a recent news release. “But having young girls look up to me is pretty cool. If I can inspire them to reach their goals, that would be even cooler.”
Since we live in a world full of skeptics and cynics, some might believe that lobbying for Casselberry was a publicity stunt. They might argue that the idea belonged to a behind-the-scenes handler, marketer or image consultant. It certainly wouldn’t hurt sales of her memoirs, “Mo’ne Davis: Remember My Name,” released by HarperCollins last week.
Reaching out to Bloomsburg without an ulterior motive sounds too Disney even for Disney.
However, Davis seems like a genuinely good kid who just happens to be the first girl to pitch a shutout in the LLWS and the first Little Leaguer featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Fame found her but seemingly hasn’t changed her. Nasty tweets from complete strangers come with the territory. But they don’t have to dictate your outlook. Or your response.
“It doesn’t surprise me that Mo’ne would take the high road,” Davis’ school principal, Priscilla Sands, told the New York Daily News. “It’s who she is. She is filled with compassion. She really has this remarkable ability to rise above. I am ever filled with admiration for her.”
You must have a sick, twisted heart if you’re filled with anything else. Casselberry’s bawdy remark is indicative of a larger societal problem in which young black girls are sexually shamed for no reason. It brings to mind the actress Quevenzhane Wallis, who was a 9-year-old Oscar nominee in 2013 when The Onion “jokingly” referred to her as a vulgar c-word.
Brittney Cooper of Salon says black girls have endured a long history of “racialized sexism and sexualized racism.” Suffice it to say we all have a long way to go before such battles are won.
Unfortunately and predictably, Tiger Woods hasn’t lived up to his father’s wild proclamation.
Mo’ne Davis won’t change humanity, either.
But she’s off to a better start, simply leading by example.