At certain points, the real world butts into our daily sports lives. It shakes us from our diversion and makes us ask real questions, and come up with some very tough answers. Today, that happened, when bombs went off at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon.
My heart goes out to the two dead, and the hundreds wounded in today’s attack, most of whom share that same love of sport as me, many of whom will never run another marathon, ride a bike, or toss a ball. Their loss is greater than any. It was their love of competition and athleticism that brought them to the marathon. Their sense of pure enjoyment is exactly what the attackers meant to destroy. It’s safe to say the attackers failed, yet again, to break the spirit of the good.
Many of us sat and watched from the comfort of our computer screens or televisions as first responders cleared rubble, comforted and bandaged the wounded, and ran towards the smoke, not from it. Many of us sat and listened to radio hosts detail the horror while we stared at the walls of our offices, workshops, classrooms and warehouses. We reached a point where we had no choice but to listen, look, take into account the events happening in the real world. We had to let go of our diversions.
For those of us who live and breathe sport (for me it’s baseball, in particular), we struggle to find ways to tie our passion for sports with our compassion for those suffering in the real world. It’s not an easy thing to do, because frankly, many sports enthusiasts have no ability of separating their daily diversions from their real lives. In reality, there is no correlation between acts of mass violence and a baseball game, but for the sports-minded, it’s days like today that remind us of who we are and why we have sports to begin with. Sports are there for us to come together as a community and make sense of our inherent needs to fight, yell, fall down, and get back up again. In baseball, there is just as much losing as their is winning. It’s a valuable training in resiliency that allows us to cope with the real world when disaster happens. I’m not saying it’s a quick fix, just that sports can help us find our way when life ceases to make sense.
Whoever decided to bomb the Boston Marathon, domestic or foreign, is not an enemy of the United States; they are an enemy of humanity. They are the enemy of goodness, and if looked at from the viewpoint of sports, they are the enemies of history because history has shown us over and over that friendly competition has no ill results.
It cannot be as simple as saying “They don’t believe in the American way,” because many don’t believe in aspects of American life, yet find peaceful ways of protesting it. It would be a shame to think on today’s events and use it as a platform for a political agenda, or to justify even more killing, which the United States government and governments around the world often do. Instead, Americans should look at this day and use it as a means to say, “We’re not going anywhere,” because we’re not. We’re down, but not for the whole count.
Sports is a part of that attitude. In many ways, for the good-natured citizens of Earth, it is the heart of it. We strive to build a culture of competition based on sportsmanship, not death and destruction. We don’t commit acts of violence against one another when our team loses and the competition is over, we shake hands. We don’t threaten the livelihood of entire nations because we lose a match to them, we invite them for a rematch.
This is how my sports mind comes to terms with events like today’s. Perhaps enemies of good-natured citizenry, home or abroad, could embrace some of this attitude, because the murder of innocent people isn’t the answer. Don’t take me for a fool; I’m not discounting the countless lives lost as a result of American wars. This should be a lesson for all parties, not just those who carried out today’s bombing.
The 2014 Boston Marathon will be ran, and many more marathons to follow. Many of the injured will recover, and run again in spite of the attempts of terrorists to stop them from living their lives the way they should be lived. Sports are a way for us to show our strength in the face of adversity, to show resilience when everything seems to be crumbling, and since 9/11, it has become a way for Americans to say that the show must go on, even when everything seems like it’s come to a grinding halt.
So remember while you fill out your fantasy lineup, or sit back and crack open an adult beverage in anticipation of the big game, that sports can be a way for humanity to bridge the gaps between differences. What happened today wasn’t an attack on the United States, it was a mindless attack on human goodness, and for those of us who spend our lives saturated with sports, perhaps we can use some of our lessons in humility, fairness and perseverance to guide our reactions when hard times come.