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13-Year-Old Boy Survives Brain Tumor, Cut From Traveling Basketball League

Conor Smith of Eagan, Minnesota beat the odds, and beat cancer two years ago. Twice.

Despite his victory over both a brain tumor and Leukemia, Conor was cut from the "C" team of the Eagan Traveling Basketball league, the lowest team in the league.

"I had no idea this was coming at all. I was completely shocked," Tim Smith, Conor's dad, told KARE 11, the NBC affiliate in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

In March 2007, doctors found that Conor had a brain tumor. Six months later, they found Leukemia. Needless to say, all the chemotherapy kept him out of basketball for 2007, but he managed to find the strength to play in 2008.

However, he developed some stiff calf muscles as a result of his chemo, so he was forced to wear casts to help ease them. Even though the casts are supposed to be off this week, Conor missed the tryouts with the Eagan Traveling Basketball league.

And since Conor couldn't try out, the Eagan Traveling Basketball league could only use his performance from last year — his I'm-still-recovering-from-cancer year. And because they value their rules more than they value fair play and extenuating circumstances, they determined he wasn't good enough to make the "C" squad.

"Could there be an exception, I guess there could have been but we try to keep everything according to our policies as best we can," Beth Koenig, who co-directs the basketball association with her husband Gregg, told KARE.

I absolutely hate the phrase, "if I let you do it, I have to let everyone else do it." My teachers often said it when someone asked for an exception to a rule, just one more chance, or the opportunity to do one thing no one else did. I had a boss who was just as unimaginative who said the same thing to me on several occasions, whenever I tried to get a day off after traveling an entire weekend for the company. (It didn't matter that no one else in the entire office traveled or ever worked weekends.)

This type of thinking is for the unimaginative, the officious, and the inflexible. People who refuse to make exceptions for special cases, citing "the rules" (or "our policies") as their reason, are nothing more than petty little power-trippers who refuse to bend the rules because it might upset their delicate little fiefdom. "We've never done it that way before," is their mating cry, and the rule book is their Bible.

"We're proud of our program," Koenig told KARE 11, hopefully hanging her head in shame."Is this one of our proudest moments? No. But we do believe we followed the policies we have in play."

It also seems to be the policy of the Koenigs and the Eagan Traveling Basketball team to kick a family when they're down, because Tim Smith was also fired as a volunteer coach. Apparently dashing the dreams of one young boy wasn't enough; they had to stick it to the old man too.

To Beth and Gregg Koenig and the Eagan Traveling Basketball team, I wish you the best of luck this year. You've managed to turn the idea of sportsmanship and fair play into a love fest with an arbitrary set of rules that you have the power — the moral obligation, in this case — to break.

If you want to see what real sportsmanship looks like, click this link. If you want to see what officiousness and unfairness look like, look in the mirror.


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