The Healing Power of Sports


My initial thoughts today were to not post today. I usually write my posts on Friday night to be ready to post on Saturday morning. Being a former substitute teacher and an aspiring teacher in the state of Connecticut, my heart is heavy as I write this. I originally was to emotional to write, but the more I thought, if I did not post, I just give in to the fear and despair that the psychopath in Newtown wanted to inflict on everyone. I now feel it is my duty to write something and go on, because my ability to move on and do normal things is an honor to those that were lost in this unspeakable tragedy.

For the third week in a row we enter a football Sunday with heavy hearts due to tragedy outside of the realm of football. The last two weeks were directly related to football, but the recent tragedy goes far beyond the reach of anything in recent memory. In times of great tragedy the best way to relieve the depression and devastation is a sense of normalcy and speaking for myself, sports is my outlet of normal. Sports is my ability to think of life as normal, the joy of watching people perform at the highest of levels is something that provides comfort even during the toughest of situations life has to offer.

Two weeks ago the entire football world was rocked by the actions of Jovan Belcher. Belcher was a Kansas City Chiefs linebacker that killed Kasandra Perkins, his girlfriend and mother of his new born child, then took his own life in the parking lot of the Kansas City Chiefs football facility. Belcher shot Perkins in her home, and then shot himself, as his coaches and management personnel watched in horror. After the incident, the Chiefs personnel and NFL offices scrambled to decide if playing a football game was appropriate after such an act. They eventually decided to play the game, and held a moment of silence for Perkins and Belcher prior to the game. The incident with Belcher sparked a nationwide debate about the role of sports in the face of tragedy. The debate of Belcher’s actions also were cranked up when Kansas City Star columnist and Fox Sports contributor Jayson Whitlock wrote an opinion about gun laws, which was repeated by NBC sports caster Bob Costas at the halftime of the NBC Sunday Night Football game.

Last week Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent committed vehicular manslaughter when he was involved in a one car accident that took the life of teammate Jerry Brown. Brent was charged with manslaughter because at the time of the accident his blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit. Brent was charged with Driving Under the Influence and Manslaughter. The accident happened late Friday night and on Saturday the team left for Cincinnati where they played the Bengals on Sunday. Before the game Sunday the Bengals officials held a moment of silence for Brown prior to the opening kickoff.

On Friday morning the unthinkable happened in Newtown, Connecticut. At 9:30AM ET a gunman (he will remain nameless because I believe he is not worthy of being named) walked through the doors of Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 28 people, 20 of the deceased students aged 5-10. The shooter also killed his mother, a substitute teacher at the school at their home in Newtown. The shooter also took his own life after carrying out his acts of unspeakable violence. The news is still breaking on this story, so the details are not fully available, but the known facts are horrific and no other words to describe them than pure evil.

In recent years there have been multiple tragedies that have affected the nation. In each instance sports has been my way of coping with the disaster. The most tragic memory I have in my life is when I witnessed the destruction on 9/11. I watched the second plane hit live on television from my dorm room in college. I remember the feelings of fear and despair that my friends and I felt as we tried to cope with the aftermath of the attack. All sports were stopped for the week following the attack and the days went by like a blur. I remember things did not get back to normal until the first sporting events were played following the attack. I still get chills whenever I see the home run hit by Mike Piazza in extra innings of the first game in New York City following the events of 9/11. In my lifetime as a New York Mets fan I have seen my team win the World Series and play in many big games along the way. Yet none of those moments rise to the occasion of that home run by Mike Piazza. My favorite moment in all of sports is that game, because of the symbolism and the shock back to reality that I felt at that moment.

The same type of feelings must have been felt in Kansas City when they played their game the Sunday following the Blecher shootings. As a Cowboys fan, I felt release when Dan Bailey hit the game winning field goal against Cincinnati following the drunk driving arrest of Brent and the death of Jerry Brown. For the three hours that the Cowboys played the Bengals all of the thoughts of the previous days was left behind for a focus on football.

Sports have always been a release from the pressures of real life. The events of the past 24 hours have been something I never thought I would have to live through. As an aspiring teacher and a former substitute in a school system, the events in Newtown hit me hard. The events taking place in Connecticut were equally as terrifying for me as well. I know there is nothing that will bring back the people lost and the families will be devastated forever. For myself, I look forward to Sunday as a day to proceed as normal when my Cowboys take the field against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The normalcy of Sunday football will never remove the emotions of the tragedy on Friday, but the game will be a welcome relief from what has happened.

I send my deepest sympathy to the families of all of those that lost a loved one in the tragedy in Newtown. The teachers that risked their lives to save the children are true heroes. The children that were gunned down in senseless violence will always be remembered every time I walk into a classroom. I cannot begin to imagine how the families move on with their lives after their brothers, sisters, sons and daughters were taken during the holiday season. Hopefully the families will find some way to cope with this tragedy. I pray for all of the families involved and hope they know they are not the only ones suffering though this unspeakable attack.