Apr. 16, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees fan holds a sign in support of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings during the third inning of a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

When Sports Can Mean So Much More Than the Game

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In a world with seemingly more evil, more tragedies, more unnecessary deaths than any reasonable person can and should endure, people have looked  to any means possible for comfort and solace. Whether it be going for five-mile runs, reading a novel, or talking with a friend, people have many different ways of dealing with times of weakness. Just days ago, the country was shaken to its core with the terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon. How anyone could commit such a dreadful and despicable act is beyond reason; how anyone could commit such an act at the Boston Marathon, on Patriots’ Day, a day founded on the celebration and greatness of this country, is beyond comprehension.

During times of such desolation and despair, the amount of confusion is just as great. People ask, “Why would anyone do this?”, “Why this city?”, “Why me?” These questions are posed by anyone directly affected by the tragedy. Even those hundreds of miles away from such an uninhibited act of devastation and destruction cannot feel anything but the same paranoia and internal anxiety course through their minds. So, when a ballgame or sporting event is played in the following day or days, some cannot help but feel like their personal feelings and mindsets are being ignored or reduced at the expense of a freaking game! I understand it, I really do. There is an undeniable time of mourning that everyone deserves and  playing something as trivial as a ballgame can create a feeling of anger and resentment. There is a right to feel cheated and  resentful when you feel like your own feelings are being disrespected. There is reason to feel like it’s you against the world during a time of such personal crisis or sadness.

Yet to me, and thousands of people around the world, sports are more than just a game. It is the perpetual struggle of strategy versus skill, optimism versus frustration, triumph versus defeat. It is the unmistakable crack of the bat, the calming swoosh of a basket, or the unrestrained jubilation of a touchdown. It is creating lifelong friends, incredible rivalries, and unforgettable moments. It is more than just a game; it’s a pastime, a livelihood, a passion. Some may not just get “it,” and that’s okay. Some may just not have experienced the true joys that sports bring. Actually, I feel bad for those people. Sports present something that those who never played or watched or coached will never, ever understand. It is not just some trivial, unimportant, waste of time and money. Clearly, it is something much, much, more.

September 11, 2011; Flushing, NY, USA; New York Mets former pitcher John Franco (left) throws the ceremonial first pitch to former catcher Mike Piazza before the game against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Another oft-cited criticism of playing sports following crises is that it divides the unity of the people involved. Those people could not be any more wrong. For anyone that saw or heard the playing of the National Anthem at the Boston Bruins game the night after the tragedy knows exactly what I’m talking about. For those that missed it, click here. The bone-chilling, goosebump-raising nature of that is the very definition of unity. People don’t just gather in the streets and demonstrate that sort of national pride and resilience; it is something that only sports can provide. Another example was days after the 9/11 attacks on New York City, the New York Mets played the first major sporting event in the city and showed their support by wearing NYPD and FDNY hats. In front of a packed Shea Stadium, the Mets rallied to beat the rival Atlanta Braves on this epic, late-inning, home run by Mike Piazza. Even something as simple as a man trotting 360 feet around a diamond brought the city back to life following the most tragic attack this great country has ever faced. That’s just something that doesn’t happen without the presence of sports.

Perhaps most important, is the distraction that sports provide. During a time when every television is smattered with the same, dreadful news, sports offer an escape from reality. No matter the chaos or disorder in the nearby world, a baseball game is still nine innings, with ninety foot bases, football is still sixty minutes and 100 yards, and basketball still has those two, impossibly high 10 ft. baskets (at least for me). Sports don’t change, no matter the surrounding circumstances; they offer a semblance of normalcy and structure in an ever-changing world. It’s not as if sports allow everyone to forget what goes on; nothing could ever do that. What it does, however, is honor those lost and sacrificed in such terrible acts and by living ordinarily, we can be extraordinary. Times filled with absolute confusion and complete disarray can be sorted out just by trying to live one’s life as normal as possible. It may seem like an impossible task, but time truly does heal all wounds. Something as simple and fundamental in nature as sports does just that.

America stands resolute and unyielding following the Boston Marathon crisis just as it has before. Whether you’re “Boston Strong,” or not, each person has their own personal way of dealing with things. Not everyone uses sports as their drug of choice. But plenty of people out there do, because sports is part of their everyday livelihood. Without it, it might as well be another catastrophe. To some it may seem silly or even outright wrong to compare those kinds of situations. But, if you’ve never rooted so hard for a team, that you cried when they lost, you just don’t get it.

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