The story of Eric Dompierre has gained national attention and for good reason.
He is having to fight a battle he should not be facing in the first place.
Eric, who kicks an occasional extra point for the Hematite football team and scored a few baskets for the Ishpeming varsity basketball team this season, has Down syndrome. He is older than many of his peers because his parents, Dean and Jill, had him spend extra time in elementary school to help with his intellectual development.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association's rules deem Eric ineligible to play sports his senior year because he will be 19 when the 2012-13 school year begins. The way things are set up by the MSHAA, this rule cannot be waived.
And that has garnered global attention.
The Ishpeming High School athlete's story is included in Sports Illustrated this week and soon could be in The New York Times as well. More than 75,000 people from around the world have signed an online petition on the website change.org in support of Eric's case.
What Eric's supporters hope all this attention will do is motivate the MHSAA to take whatever action necessary to allow this rule to be waived in cases like his.
As shared in a story written by Mining Journal sports writer Steve Brownlee for this past Sunday's paper, Eric's schoolmates and his basketball coach definitely want him to be part of the team.
"Eric's been great for the team - when he gets in games when the team or the fans might be losing interest if the score isn't close - everybody is rooting for him," coach Bob Salisbury said. "Not just our fans, but the fans from the other team, too."
As the online petition, posted by Eric's father explained: "This rule is the only rule that the MHSAA does not allow itself to waive. Changing this rule will enable a small number of deserving students who have experienced a hardship due to a combination of intellectual and physical disabilities early in life to play a full four years of high school sports.
This would put Michigan in line with 23 other states who currently allow waivers to their maximum age rule.
That just seems like common sense to The Mining Journal. While we understand there might be some sort of "fear" on the part of a few people that changing this rule will allow a flood of cheating by unscrupulous people looking to load up a team with older players, we do not for a second believe that will be the case.
Moreso, the compassion learned by recognizing this sort of special circumstance would go a long way toward helping people of all ages realize that high school sports should be about so much more than just the final score. Athletics should be about helping individuals reach their potential by being part of a team.
It should be about letting everyone have a moment in the spotlight whenever possible.
We hope all this pressure forces the MHSAA to do the right thing: Allow the rule to be waived when so much can be gained by letting youngsters like Eric have a chance to experience the excitement of being part of a team all four years of high school.
To read Sports Illustrated's take, go to sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1196894/1/index.htm