Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Courtside Conversations with Paul Johnson
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: June 22, 2004
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Jan. 20, 2004

This week's sudden passing of California women's basketball player Alisa Lewis from a bacterial infection gives all of us a reason to pause and remember what life is all about. It also gives us a moment to reflect on why collegiate athletics exist in the first place, which is not to make millionaires out of television executives, stuff the coffers of major universities, or even give fans another sports outlet. No, college athletics exists for our young people. The games are played for our children who will become the torch carriers of our values into the next decades.

Just one week ago, Alisa Lewis was as healthy as can be. As a reserve for the Golden Bears, she was seeing some playing time on a team that is on the rise. Suddenly, she felt poorly on Saturday, and by Monday she was gone. How short life is! How we take life for granted! Here was a healthy young athlete who was suddenly taken before her time. And the question I ask is, "did collegiate athletics enrich her life?" The answer must be yes! Playing basketball on scholarship, hanging out with friends from her team, traveling to new cities -- all must be very rewarding to a student-athlete. The life of Alisa Lewis, and many others, is made better by collegiate athletics. Students from low-income areas are given a chance at college, while others are able to shoot for academic success while using basketball as a tool. This is why we play the games. It is about the student. Maybe Alisa Lewis didn't pour millions of dollars into a network bank account, but she enjoyed what college basketball had to offer and that is all that matters.

This week, when I reflect on a young basketball player who died before her time, I will think of two things. First, life is short. When we take life for granted we tend to forget about what is really important. We forget to tell those we love how much we love them, and we tend to take for granted all of the blessings that a loving God has given us. Second, I think of the beauty of youth, prep, and college sports. In their purist forms, they enrich the lives of young people, each of whom is more important than any dollar bill, tournament bracket, or number of wins. Let the life, and death, of Alisa Lewis remind us that the kids on the floor are what matter. Let's appreciate each one today, because tomorrow, for all of us, is an uncertain commodity.

See you on the radio!
Paul Johnson

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