This isn’t a football story.
Football is in the details, which is why you can find it on a site like SaturdayBlitz.com. However, this is a story about a man, Jacob Karam, who happens to be a football player–among many other things–for the Memphis Tigers and a little girl, Breanna Bercegeay, who is battling acute myeloid leukemia at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis.
On the roster, Memphis lists Jacob Karam as a quarterback, but there’s more to the the 6-1 205 lb. kid from Friendswood, TX. As he sat next to 11 year-old Bree Bercegeay in front of a piano at St. Jude’s on Monday night, he ceased being an athlete. Instead, he wore one of his many other hats–musician and, in his newest, and possibly most important, role… friend.
Breanna Bercegeay likes to sing. She doesn’t like to do it in public, but she does like to sing, according to her mother in this heart-warming piece by CBSSports.com’s Greg Doyel. And, as it turns out, she happens to be pretty damn good at it.
So, in this world that seems to be growing more distant and connected (social media) all at the same time, Karam and Bercegeay came together the old fashioned way. Through a common bond. Through a love of music.
Talent is a weird thing. It makes those that don’t have it envious and often appeals to the vanity of those that do. That’s why it’s so awe-inspiring to see talent harvested and funneled into something so innocent and pure.
As a quarterback who completed 65% of his passes last season, it’d be easy for Jacob Karam to get wrapped up in his own talents. He’s the starting quarterback for a Division I college football program, and while Memphis is still Memphis, that normally affords one the rights to “Big Man On Campus” status and the brazen personality that goes with it.
And, not only can Jacob Karam throw a football, but he can also play a tune. He’s one of those people with the rare gift of being able to sit at a piano and play a song without sheet music, simply hearing a song and knowing instinctively how to follow along. Oh, and in addition to all that, he also graduated from Texas Tech with honors in just two and a half years. Needless to say, Karam’s talents are abundant.
That’s why it’s so remarkable to see this:
Now, make no mistake about it, Jacob Karam isn’t the first person to ever volunteer at a children’s hospital and develop a special sort of connection with one of the kids he came across. However, there’s something amazing about this story of the star quarterback who walks in off the streets–no camera crew or reporters in tow–and just starts playing music for kids because he wants to.
I’m sure the Memphis sports information department would have no issue telling us all how great a story this is, but they didn’t even know. Karam had no interest in enhancing his image or anything of the sorts.
Ironically, it was Breanna Bercegeay and her family who turned this into a story about a kind-hearted football player. The camera was theirs and the video went viral from their Facebook page.
Since transferring to Memphis, Karam has been making regular appearances at St. Jude’s under relative anonymity. He’s moved boxes and sat by himself at a piano playing background music in the cafeteria while kids and their families sat down to eat.
Every month or two, he just shows up and does whatever he is asked without any of the media attention that normally goes with a gifted athlete’s charitable endeavors. He doesn’t mention football or tell everybody about being the star quarterback.
As a matter of fact, the only reason Breanna’s family was made aware he even played the sport was because he offered them tickets to a game this fall. Up until that point they just thought he was a musician. Even then, it took a Google search to realize that he was a pretty good player at that.
Perhaps Jacob Karam doesn’t mention football because he doesn’t want himself pigeon-holed in some stereotypical, externally motivated way–see jock. Perhaps he just doesn’t find it relevant to playing music for sick kids.
Yet, because of football, we get the opportunity to tell the story of a young man and sick little girl whose talents miraculously crossed paths and created this moment we all got to share. It’s easy to see why it’s so special for us. The talented, able-bodied athlete with a soft side coaxes a big voice out of a courageous, yet shy little girl who is battling cancer.
However, what makes it truly amazing is that it wasn’t supposed to be a moment for all of us to share. This wasn’t designed for us. It was a special, random moment between two people at opposite ends of life’s spectrum that we just so happened to catch a glimpse of.
And for the people actually involved, it isn’t special because the video went viral. It’s special because it happened at all.
The fact that we all got to share in that feeling is just a bonus. If this were a football story, I guess it’d be the extra point.