About six weeks ago, ESPN aired an SC Featured segment that has resonated with viewers as much as anything the premier storytelling brand of SportsCenter has ever produced.
“The Courage Game” told the story of Braeden Lange, a 12-year-old lacrosse player who was bullied after coming out as gay but found solace in an ESPN feature produced 10 years earlier. The 2005 feature was about Andrew Goldstein, a Dartmouth lacrosse player, who came out while in college and later became the first openly gay athlete to play in an American pro sports league (Major League Lacrosse). Braeden’s father connected his son with Goldstein, a friendship blossomed, and Goldstein helped lift Braeden’s spirits.
The monthly SportsCenter Featured special for October, which debuts Sunday, Oct. 11, at 7 a.m. ET on ESPNEWS, will revisit the story with an update by reporter Greg Garber and a new interview with Braeden and his father, who discuss how Braeden’s life has changed for the positive since the story aired. Ben Webber, who produced the story for the ESPN Features Unit, said that Goldstein relayed to him that positive feedback from the piece began flowing to him immediately after the piece aired, and Braeden’s family reported that Braeden had received an immense amount of support as well.
“The stuff that Andrew has forwarded to me that started coming in right after the piece aired came from all walks of life,” said Webber. “Just people reaching out about how inspired they were by his story,”
A middle school principal sent Braeden a letter which included this passage:
“I think your story, and your willingness to share it, is incredible. Even though you are much younger than I am, I am truly inspired by you, your courage, your willingness to share, and your honesty.”
A 15-year-old student sent a message to Goldstein that included this:
“It’s (Braeden’s story) given me a new outlook on life and also a new perspective on how different groups such as homosexuals are treated in today’s society. Simply put, this story saved me from heading the wrong direction in life. Braeden, who is three years younger than me, has quickly become my hero and role model in life for his courage and valiance … “
More messages will be included in the updated story.
“Serving the sports fan and getting as many eyes on our broadcast as possible is always our priority,” said Webber. “But we can’t forget that these stories have real impact on real people. That’s what it’s all about. It helps you know how important your job is and it makes you thankful to be able to tell stories like this.”