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No room for this kind of pettiness in sports nation

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published July 14. 2013 4:00AM

This is a question better asked of the professor of sociology than the columnist of sports-ology. Here goes, nonetheless:

What is it about sports that makes people act like such nincompoops?

(Another) case in point: One of the most accomplished graduates in the history of New London High School is left to wonder why all of symbols of his athletic achievements have been removed from the trophy case just outside Conway Gym.

That's right. Someone decided that his or her own interpretation of the athletic program's tradition supersedes its actual history.

And turned Troy McKelvin into persona non grata.

And so now anyone who might browse the trophy case won't see photos and plaques dedicated to an all-state athlete in two sports who did other things far more important: He graduated from Trinity College and could have lived and worked anywhere. Instead, he came home, where he is a husband, father and youth coach.

McKelvin's awards disappeared several months ago. I called principal Tommy Thompson in the spring and asked him about it. He agreed that it was not acceptable. To date, however, nothing has been done to restore McKelvin's honors or at least a reasonable facsimile.

And while Thompson should act sooner rather than later, the far more fascinating study on this issue once again explores the levels of pettiness sports engender.

McKelvin, a 1992 graduate, is an assistant boys' basketball coach at Ledyard High School. He has also coached youth sports in New London. This is like having the blow torch meet the Exxon truck. New London officials have accused McKelvin in recent years of trying to recruit players to Ledyard. None have been proven.

More disclosure: McKelvin was once a prolific author of reader comments on theday.com, often saving his best darts for the New London coaches. Not a smart move, admittedly, if your goal is one day to coach at your alma mater.

But none of that changes McKelvin's legacy. If you know him, you know that nobody else loves this city more than he does. The kids love "coach Troy." His name still commands respect.

I know that because I've spent the last week asking various city residents - men, women, white, black, Latino - their opinion about the Curious Case of McKelvin's Missing Mementos. We achieved unanimity: They can't believe it.

One former New London basketball player who runs a business in the city: "You're joking. You're joking. Stop it. That's like the highest level of disrespect. I mean, it's Troy."

And if you say that name in this city - Troy - everyone knows the reference even without a last name.

I'd be lying if I claimed complete objectivity. I like McKelvin. That doesn't mean we agree on everything. I know he can be louder than a lawn mower at games, sometimes to his detriment.

But I know where his heart lies. He'll be a great head coach if given the opportunity. But beyond my opinion of him - and anybody else's - his contribution to New London High School stands on its merits, deserving the recognition it used to receive. No one person gets to take that away.

Nobody.

New London High loyalists like to talk history. And McKelvin's story, how a great athlete went to an elite Division III school to do great things, needs to be told more, not less.

Meanwhile, there is somebody out there who went into the trophy case and became the self-appointed caretaker of New London's tradition. Note to you, sir or ma'am: Get over yourself. New London High existed before you and will exist after you. And you have given the school you purport to love a black eye with your pettiness.

McKelvin neither wants nor expects acknowledgment like Kris Dunn's banner that hangs proudly in Conway Gym. He'd simply like the perpetrator to return the photos and plaques that recognized his time as a Whaler.

And so would most of the other thinking souls in the city who know an all-timer when they see one.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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