Sports: the great unifier.
You’re at a sporting event sitting next to someone of a different age, race, background, lifestyle. In the real world, you would have no reason to interact and nothing in common. But when it comes to sports, you two can turn to each other and high five after a home run, or after a 3-point shot as the buzzer rings.
Non-sports fans may roll their eyes at us and say “it’s just a game” or “why do you take it so seriously”. Sometimes they’re right, but sometimes it’s not just a game. Sometimes it means a whole lot more than a group of grown ups playing games.
Hurricane Harvey made a devastating impact on Texas and Louisiana. I’m not going to bore you with facts and figures. You know what happened. The Houston Astros represented more than just a baseball team. They stood for the strength and perseverance of a city and their people. For a family who lost their home, maybe watching the Astros win their first franchise World Series Championship was their chance to feel normal again. For the small child whose heroes celebrated being the best team in baseball, maybe that allowed him to forget, just for a moment, about losing his entire baseball card collection in the floods.
The Red Sox first regular season home game in 2013 started with David Ortiz telling a sold out crowd that “this is our fucking city” following the Boston Marathon bombing. The Red Sox were World Series Champions that year. For Boston, that championship mattered. That win brought people together in spite of everything else.
In 2001, the New York Yankees faced off with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series. Arguably the greatest World Series of all time. It was the first time we’ve ever witnessed November baseball. The Yankees did not win this series, but hell, they should have. President Bush threw out the first pitch to a roaring crowd chanting “U-S-A”. Tino Martinez to tie it up. Derek Jeter’s game winning home run at the strike of midnight on November 1st (that tied the series). Brosius. Extra innings. Mo Rivera. The Yankees fought for the people of New York, and New York felt it.
It’s the New Orleans Saints rising up after Katrina. It’s Virginia Tech’s emotional home opener following the 2007 shooting. It’s a stadium full of football fans singing in harmony to “I Won’t Back Down” after the deadly shooting in Las Vegas and the passing of Tom Petty. The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team. One of the most iconic examples in the history of sports – the 1980 U.S.A. Hockey Team. I could go on and on but I’m sure you have other blogs to visit.
There is a healing power in sports. Will it cure cancer? No. Will it bring world peace? Likely no. It’s something that we can bond over in trying times. Something that allows us to escape our life struggles and forget the pain and suffering, if even for a moment. More often than not we need sports, for better or worse.