What I did experience tonight, however, was a demonstration of respect for a fallen co-worker, coach, mentor and friend for many in attendance. While I did not know George very well, (in fact we only spoke once when he kindly sold me some Steelers tickets back in 2010), it was clear from the atmosphere that this man had made a profound impact on many lives.
Before the match, George's old wrestling shoes were placed on a folding chair in front of the scorekeeper. As each athlete met in the middle for the ceremonial handshake, he placed a white flower next to shoes as a sign of respect for his former coach. For the honorary coin toss, a former student of Mr. McCormack (or "G-Mac" as the team chanted after finishing their warm-up routine) stood before the crowd. A Baldwin grad from 2011, this student has been diagnosed with cancer and has been forced to take some time off from college. As she walked to the center of the mat, the crowd rose with a standing ovation, offering her support as she continued to wrestle with her own internal opponent. While I may have been a stranger to the setting, but a member of the Baldwin family, it was clearly a natural way to honor George and show solidarity for the Highlander Pride.
While the final score was not in Baldwin's favor, there were some highlights. Nelson M. and DeAdrain C. scored wins in the individual bouts while Zach D. was able to overcome an wince-worthy injury and walk off the floor on his own. As both teams wrapped up, the light's were lowered and Mr. McCormack's shoes were placed under the spotlight in the center ring. The silence was that of awe and respect for a life well lived.
It has been said that one does not need great power to overcome the struggles of the world, but rather it is the everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay, simple acts of kindness and love. Such actions were very much on display at Baldwin High School tonight, tucked away from the cold in the small gym. From the staff, my thanks to the many students and parents in attendance, as well as the respect shown by both teams. It was something memorable to behold. You had to be there.