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Secrets Within The Game Image Credit: ESPN The Magazine
Secrets Within The Game Image Credit: ESPN The Magazine

Secrets Within The Game

What happens when you go searching for the soul of sportsin a college softball team and find it unraveling from scandal instead?

Tom Junod

A little over a year ago, I gave a speech to the Auburn Tigers softball team. I did not give it at a banquet or any kind of offcial ceremony; I delivered it from the aisle of a tour bus, at the prompting of a coach who wanted me to explain to the girls—and he never called them, nor did they ever call themselves, anything but girls—why a writer with a precarious rious hold on middle age had decided to travel with them for their three-game series with the Florida Gators. ¶ And so, on a highway somewhere between Alabama and Florida, I told 19 Division I softball players what I’m telling you now, I was traveling with the Auburn softball team because I love softball, and I love softball because I love my 15-year-old daughter, who is a softball player. I was traveling with the Auburn softball team because the year before, when I watched the Tigers play the Oklahoma Sooners for the national championship in the Women’s College World Series, I saw something I’d never seen in a lifetime of watching sports. It was the seventh and final inning of the third and final game; they were down a run with two outs. Oklahoma’s best pitcher was in the circle, and Auburn was down to a sophomore pinch-hitter named Court- ney Shea. She was overmatched and knew it, and to give herself courage, she began singing a Beyonce song. She fouled off one pitch, then another; she wound up

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