There Is a Place… Like No Place On Earth

The following appears in the most recent edition of  “Minnesota Score” magazine

by Bill

“We’re all mad here” — The Cheshire Cat

Well why wouldn’t we be, it’s March in Minnesota.  The snow won’t stop falling, it’s turned from Christmas-white to get-me-somwhere-warm grey.  That teasing day of bright sunshine and near 50 degree temps is scoffed at by the following day’s 8 more inches of white.

March Madness is a term coined 70 years ago by a man covering the Illinois state basketball tournament.  It’s now obviously most connected to the NCAA basketball tournament– but nowhere does the phrase make any more sense than here in Minnesota, where the wheather and the high school sports scene all reach an insane level of madness.

Conference champions have been crowned– giving way to the do or die “sectional” playoffs.  Win or go home.  In gyms or rinks or mats or pools or slopes– winning moves moving on and getting one step closer, while losing means you turn all the equipment back in on Monday afternoon and wonder what might have been.

“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night?  Let me think.  Was I the same when Igot up this morning?  I almost think I can remember feeling a little different.  But if I’m not the same, the next questinon is, who in the world am I?”– Alice

Every high-school sports year, from the first dull thud of a football being punted in mid-August to the last ping of an aluminum bat in early June, is jammed full of wonderful stories of grit, determination and success.  Success doesn’t always mean raising state championship trophy over one’s head– win or lose, if you’ve given it all you’ve got, you’ll look back in the coming years and be proud.

In this past year, no Minnesota high-school sports story has been as compelling as that of Sasha Doran, the junior quarterback for the Wayzata Trojans.  Plucked off the streets at age 7 by police in St. Petersburg, Russia, Doran was living in an orphanage with his two older sisters when his rabbit-hole came gaping open in the form of loving parents thousands of miles away in a Minneapolis suburb.  The image of a runaway, 6-year old boy sleeping in train stations is harsh enough to make the kindest of souls scream at his physically abusive birth-father and a mother who fled:

“Off with their heads!”– The Queen

For Sasha and his sisters, Elena and Nadya, the other-side of the looking glass became, literally, the other-side of the world– Wayzata, Minnesota and the home of John and Mary Ellen Doran.  Unable to have children of their own, it took but one look at a picture shown to her by her husband of 10 year-old Sasha, 12 year-old Nadya and 16 year-old Elena for Mary Ellen to want to bring her new family together.  John Doran brought a present along on the 17-hour flight to Russia to pick up his new children: a football.  Sasha immediately took to his new ball, but couldn’t help wondering why it was shaped so odd.

Eight years later a new language has been learned, a new culture embraced, a new family has grown.  And a new football star has been born.

In Sasha’s words from a long story done on him by ESPN, “I came here with nothing and am doing what I truly want to do and that’s play football.  That’s what the American dream is,  the opportunity to do something you really want– and that’s what I’m doing right now.”

Doran and the Wayzata football team’s dream made it all the way to the Dome last fall, losing to Eden Prairie in the state quarter-finals.

Try to come up with fiction any more uplifting than that: young orphan boy living on the bitter streets of Russia to star quarterback leading his team all the way to the state quarter-finals.

You can find no better example to show that you don’t have to win it all to be a success.  His life-story proves without a sliver of a doubt that it truly is the journey that matters.

To Sasha Doran and all the other high school athletes who’ve competed and given their all this past school year– especially those competing in State Tournaments this March: Welcome to Wonderland.

Published in: on March 12, 2010 at 8:00 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I’m going to Russia to steal all those cute babies!!!!!


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