It’s just a game, but sometimes that’s enough
Like many others out there, I’ve had an intimate relationship with sports for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, it taught me lessons about sportsmanship and teamwork. It helped me make friends.
When I got a little older, I tore up my knee playing sports. That day, sports taught me about disappointment.
A year later, I tore it up again. That day, sports taught me to accept that sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you expect it to.
Sports taught me all those things because that’s what they’re supposed to teach you. Sports offer a unique arena to compete – to exert every ounce of effort left in the tank to prove to yourself that you’re capable, to prove that hard work pays off. That’s what I love about it.
That’s why when I turned on CNN Monday afternoon and saw the two explosions that rocked the finish line at the Boston Marathon – one of the most iconic races in the nation – I became sick to my stomach.
The Boston Marathon is meant to showcase incredible athletes (and I mean incredible; I’ve got friends who run marathons and they’re crazy), but that’s not all.
Thousands of runners take part and only a handful enter the race with any legitimate hopes of being the first to cross the finish line after running 26 miles and change. For the rest of them, it’s about self improvement and hard work. It’s about earning every mile.
It’s what makes the notion of a planned attack targeting the finish line of the Boston Marathon so haunting.
Sports are, to an extent, a mirage. That’s especially true for the spectator, which the vast majority of us are eternally delegated as.
We buy jerseys, we go to games, memorize batting averages and trash talk our rivals because of the preconceived notion that at the end of the day, the win/loss column actually matters.
That’s a lack of perspective and it often takes an event as jarring as Monday’s to snap it back into place.
The funny thing about it all is that when we’ve realized it really is just a game, when that perspective has been restored, often sports can offer not only a calming, consistent presence, but the most incredible moments support.
After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, the nation didn’t know when would be appropriate to resume games. Fans didn’t know if they were ready. They didn’t know if it was alright to resume any kind of a normal life again. The world kept turning though, and eventually the fans were back in the seats and the players on the field.
The New York Mets hosted their first game in the city since the attack, and the eyes of the nation were upon them. The Mets’ Mike Piazza hit a booming home run to center field and as fans across the country watched the ball leave the park, every single one of them was a Mets fan at that moment.
New York knew it. Everyone knew it. And that mattered.
Often considered one of the most intense rivalries in sports, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox absolutely hate each other. Whenever the Yankees make the trip to Fenway or the Sox travel to the Bronx, it’s a bona fide event. That’s what made Tuesday’s Yankees-Diamondbacks game so special.
In support of their hated rivals, Yankee fans belted out “Sweet Caroline” following the seventh inning, honoring a beloved Boston tradition. If anyone knows what Boston is going through right now, it’s New York. By the way, after 9/11, Fenway Park offered up a resounding chorus of “New York, New York.”
That’s not all though. Wrigley Field, Great American Ball Park, Dodger Stadium, Marlins Park, Safeco Field, O.co Coliseum and Progressive Field also performed their own renditions of the Neil Diamond classic.
The Milwaukee Brewers chose the “Cheers” theme because the popular sitcom took place in Boston.
Sports have taught me a lot over the years, but I’m not sure there’s been a more important lesson than to keep it all in perspective.
Through the cheering, the despair, the frustration and the trash talk, keep perspective. It’s just a game and that’s all it was ever meant to be.