Tommy Tomlinson, an ESPN staff writer, penned this in a column on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11: “The sports we love are not a dip into the waters of Lourdes. They’re a bandage, a salve, a plaster cast on a broken arm. They don’t heal us by themselves. They give us protection and time so we can heal on our own.
“You know how a great book can consume you so fully that you get lost in the world between the covers? A great game—or even just a great sports moment—can do the same thing. It becomes its own little universe. And it puts you in the center of it.”
His piece was referring to Mike Piazza’s game-winning home run on Sept. 21, 2011. Game-winning home runs happen decently often in baseball; this one was different.
Piazza, now a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, was the starting catcher for the New York Mets. His home run secured a 3-2 victory for the Mets in the first game played in New York since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. As Piazza trotted around the bases, American flags waved all throughout Shea Stadium. It was the highlight on that night’s episode of SportsCenter.
The storybook ending to the first game back in New York, even if just for a moment, brought healing. The weight of the previous 10 days was temporarily lifted. For the three hours in which that game between the Mets and Atlanta Braves was played, and specifically, the 20 seconds Piazza spent rounding the bases, all was okay again.
A plaster cast on a broken arm seems a fitting comparison for our community today, our AU community and our national community. This past week was tough. Well, tough may not be the word to adequately describe the true heaviness. We were surrounded by grief, by mourning, by questioning, by hurting and by loss.
Trying to put the sorrow felt by so many into words is an almost impossible task. Moving on too quickly and acting as if nothing happened—an irresponsible one. The wounds stemming from the losses suffered will be felt for as long as we live.
Grieving is normal; grieving is necessary. The process of grieving helps begin the process of recovering. Sometimes all we need while grieving is an escape. In times like this, I’m thankful for sport.
The aforementioned plaster cast is symbolic as a visible means of healing. One knows that injury still lies beneath, but the healing process has begun. Our community is still injured, but sports can be the plaster cast that enables healing to begin.
Now, I am not saying sports solve all of our issues. Clearly, the events of the past couple of weeks greatly outweigh whatever sporting contest is taking place, but it’s those couple of hours when a playoff baseball game comes on the TV, those moments spent wandering around a golf course, the solace of shooting a basketball in an empty gym that can provide the escape we are looking for.
On Saturday night, with his team trailing 3-1 and on the verge of falling behind the Cubs 2-0 in the series, Bryce Harper, fresh off of a leg injury that was supposed to end his season, came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning. Harper, a native of Las Vegas, stepped up wearing custom cleats emblazoned with the “Welcome to Las Vegas” logo on one side and “pray for Las Vegas” on the other.
The former NL MVP, who has been working tirelessly to help his native city, proceeded to launch a mammoth home run into right field, tying the game and setting the stage for the National’s improbable Game 2 comeback. It was a story that was seemingly too good to be true—one of Las Vegas’ own, carrying the weight of his hometown on his back, battling through physical injury, and who knows how much emotional turmoil, to lead his team to victory.
These are the narratives that sports offer, the solace they can provide.
Tomlinson continued in his piece, “This is the blessing of sports. They help you remember when you want to remember, and they help you forget when you need to forget.They heal us an inning at a time, quarter after quarter, play by play. Not all the way. But enough.”
No game is going to remove the pain and sorrow of this past week. Life is far bigger than sport, but sports can do for us what little else can. The community it provides between fans and teammates, the stories it offers that will be passed down for generations and the temporary respite that can provide even a minute amount of peace and comfort are all welcome diversions from the devastating occurrences too frequently common in today’s society.
Today I’m thankful for the blessing of sport, and more so, the blessing of AU. As we attempt to recover, we should lean into each other and the incredible community this campus offers. Maybe even take advantage of the escape that sports can provide.
Grab a friend and a ball, step outside and play an old-fashioned game of catch. Enjoy those 20 minutes spent in community, being a little kid again, just tossing a ball.
I can’t promise it will make everything better, no, not all the way, but enough.
Alec Brown is junior public relations major and global business minor from Greenwood, Indiana.