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Panganiban's unsolicited act of sportsmanship was the best I've seen

Stonington — Cynicism gets easier, what with human behavior swirling the bowl, polarization becoming our chief export and how maintaining image over doing what's right has become a warped, compulsory precept.

Sometimes, though, there are little nuggets that happen among us to suggest, as the line often repeated in sports goes, we ain't done yet.

And so it was the end of a high school football game in Stonington the other night, a dramatic finish during which the Bears, who entered this season having gone more than 1,000 days between victories, won their biggest game in years. A gadget play on a two-point conversion try — a wink and a nod to the "Philly Special" the Eagles pulled on the Patriots in Super Bowl LII — gave Stonington a 14-13 lead over Ledyard with 24 seconds left.

Stonington's subsequent interception ended the game, leaving the field was awash in conflicting emotions: Stonington's utter joy in victory;  Ledyard's torment of lost opportunity.

It would be perfectly reasonable, given recent societal regression, to ask the following questions:

How long did it take for people to start yelling at each other?

Were there enough cops to break up the fight?

And then along came a young man named Kevin Panganiban.

He is an assistant coach at Stonington, a rather hulking fellow, who in the words of Seinfeld looks like he could bench press a dump truck. Panganiban, amid the joy of all the coaches and players wearing brown and white, saw an injured Ledyard player near the Stonington sideline.

It was James Green, the fleet running back/corner, whose touchdown run gave the Colonels the lead with a little more than four minutes left. Green barely came off the field all night. Now he couldn't leave the field, unable to walk.

And so while all the Bears were celebrating, while the kids jumped around in front of the student section and the band jubilantly hollering "Here's To Old Stonington," Kevin Panganiban picked up James Green, much like the groom does the bride in that carry-you-over-the-threshold thing.

Panganiban carried Green across the field. A football field's width is roughly 54 yards. He placed Green gently on Ledyard's bench and waited until medical personnel arrived.

Panganiban could have seen Green laying there and given him a cursory look before going to celebrate with the rest of the guys. He could have sat there with Green and simply waited for the trainer. Instead, he opted for an act of compassion and sportsmanship that frankly our schools and our games need more than we do our lungs.

"About halfway across," Panganiban said after, "I cursed every cheeseburger I ever ate."

It was an amusing way of saying that Panganiban, much like the rest of us, can pinch more than an inch and aren't in the shape we used to be.

I nearly cried at the entirety of it.

In this cauldron of self-indulgence, which is what sports have become, this young guy thought enough of another human being's welfare that he eschewed his own time to celebrate. Maybe it's no big deal to some of you, the folks who were raised during more polite, respectful times.

But for me, who sees the inmates allowed to run the asylums on so many different levels now — image over all and proper discipline be damned, remember — Kevin Panganiban is the guy who pulled the ripcord with the ground rushing toward all of us.

Stonington coach A.J. Massengale said a friend of his from church got a photo of Panganiban carrying Green across the field. If he doesn't get it framed, I will. It's a symbol of hope and decency.

Nobody else in the region celebrates victory better than Stonington football. Sorry, but I'm a sucker for the kids and coaches singing the fight song in front of the band. It's everything this is supposed to be.

But with the rest of them singing Friday night, Kevin Panganiban provided a pick-me-up — literally and figuratively — for which these tired eyes are grateful. It won't be forgotten. And shouldn't be. We ain't done yet.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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