The relationship between some members of the Baltimore Ravens and the community runs deeper than just on-field victories. And Friday, the USA cable channel features one of the those players, linebacker Jameel McClain, in a film about the way he reached out to a homeless boy in our city.
"NFL Characters Unite," an hour-long documentary of professional football players sharing stories of obstacles they have overcome, features Justin Tuck (New York Giants), Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals), in addition to McClain. But it is the linebacker's story in Baltimore that is the most powerful.
McClain's segment includes his testimony of growing up poor in Philadelphia, with his family living in a shelter at one point. He talks about getting off the school bus far away from the Salvation Army so that none of the other kids would know he was living there.
The producers then bring McClain to a Salvation Army shelter in Baltimore where he meets a boy named Jesse whose family has also been forced into the shelter by economic difficulties. The boy is clearly having some issues adjusting.
McClain chats with the boy, plays pool, kids around and then starts telling him about his life.
Later in the segment, the boy, talking one-on-one to the camera, explains that McClain once lived in a shelter just like him, and look where he is now. As he speaks, you can see the boy light up with the thought that he, too, might have a future he had never imagined before talking to McClain.
The moment defines how you go about showing instead of telling in TV journalism.
I won't give it all away, but the segment will leave you feeling good about Ravens who get involved in their community -- and maybe even a little inspired by the difference they can make.
Check out the above podcast for a fuller review that I did for WYPR (88.1) this week.
"NFL Characters Unite" airs at 7 p.m. Friday on the USA cable channel.
(For an update on McClain's health status, go to baltimoresun.com/ravensinsider.)Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times