The thing to remember is, many of the people who engage in the most profound examples of philanthropy prefer to do it away from the glare, away from the lights. One of the last conversations I ever had with George Steinbrenner was trying to convince him to attach his name to a story detailing an extraordinary hand he’d provided someone.
“The satisfaction comes in the helping,” Steinbrenner said, gently refusing to take part in the story, “not in the telling.”
It is important to remember that as we see, in ever-increasing numbers, sportsmen and women who have stepped forward to assist New York City and elsewhere in this time of unrelenting need. Much is being done, as usual, without PR campaigns to spread the word. The helping is more important than the telling.
Still, every day, we are allowed a glimpse of how sports is lending a hand, sometimes modest, sometimes extraordinary. In the past few weeks alone, we have seen countless athletes underwrite the salaries of arena and stadium workers. We have seen Shin-Soo Choo of the Texas Rangers donate $191,000 so that each of the franchise’s 191 minor leaguers could add a much-needed $1,000 to their bank accounts.
Around here we have seen the Yankees announce a $1.4 million Distress Relief Fund for Yankee Stadium employees, and we have seen the Giants fund a 10-week program so that emergency response workers can have childcare at the Meadowlands YMCA. Pete Alonso, the Mets’ first baseman, has been a Pied Piper, popping up on so many platforms and in so many ways to offer support.
Of course there was Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots, caretaker of one of New York’s blood rivals, flying the team plane to China to retrieve a million masks, then sending 300,000 of them to New York. They were delivered in a truck festooned with a Patriots logo, Patriots colors and six Lombardi Trophies, a sight that in normal times might’ve drawn the egg-throwing wrath of locals, but in these times was seen, rightly, as an 18-wheeled angel of mercy.
Saturday, it was the basketball locals’ turn. Nets owner Joseph Tsai and his wife, Clara Wu, helped facilitate the donation of 1,000 ventilators from China to New York, earning thanks from Gov. Cuomo during his daily press briefing.
“We finally got some good news today,” Cuomo said.
Later, Cuomo announced the Nets, Knicks, NBA and China’s Consul General, Huang Ping were arranging to provide a million surgical masks to help resupply New York’s ever-diminishing stock, for which Cuomo tweeted: “We are beyond grateful.”
These, of course, are the things we know about, the things too public to keep private. We all do what we can, after all. We order from local restaurants because we want them to stay afloat. We deliver groceries to our neighbors who are too old or infirm to do it themselves. Some of us have been bludgeoned by the economic downturn the virus has inflicted, yet still manage to give as much of our time, our hearts and our resources as we can.
These are not our greatest days. But in these days we are discovering something else, because it just may be our finest hour.