When I think about all the things that I’ll look back upon as my life is coming to its close, terror and tragedy will not be among them. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding my demise, I’ll have images of laughter and happiness and love on my mind as I go. These are the things I can control, no matter how uncontrollable the moment in and of itself may be. In spite of what we’re facing at any given point in time, knowing there are these good things that fill us, that compel us, that bring us to muster the courage we may not otherwise be able to summon in that instant, makes all the difference in the world.
Whenever something we care so deeply about is threatened, we’re scarred in a way that can hardly be put into words. It doesn’t matter what that thing is, either; it could be anything. On this particular week, it happened to be some combination of sports and freedom and security and shreds of innocence and more. All things we cherish, all things that, when threatened, leave us scarred.
This isn’t really about a geographic location, though our thoughts certainly go out to Boston in the wake of the senseless and horrific acts of violence that took place there. This isn’t really about security, though our concerns towards safety certainly increase in times like these. This isn’t really about freedom, because that can never be taken from us, even if there are those who would like to see it blemished. For right now, this is about two things: sports and life.
The backdrop for the two explosions that shook Boston happened to be the city’s most distinguished sporting event, the Boston Marathon. A race spanning 26.2 miles and 116 years of history, the Marathon epitomized the spirit of athletic competition in America. This was, in a nutshell, the upper echelon of what we’ve come to know as sports.
We don’t yet know why someone chose to impose carnage upon such a setting. In the most ethereal sense, the why doesn’t really matter. There is no good why for an act like this. It happened and it’s horrible. We can try to understand it all we want, but there’s no understanding evil. Evil just is. It’s not big or vast or rampant, evil. But when it strikes, it has a momentary impact upon all our good. We withstand evil because we have no other choice. And yet as the inimitable Patton Oswalt reminded us on Monday, “we would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.” And he’s right. We don’t need to understand evil, but it’s important to know that evil is heavily outweighed by good.
Sports are among the good we bring to our lives. Sports build character, they motivate, they entertain, they invoke joy and emotion and the very best of the human spirit. Sports aren’t for everyone, though there are so many positives bred from sports that it’s hard to imagine anyone truly being better off without them. Sports are games, they’re a luxury, they exist because we want them to, not because we need them to. It is that facet of sports — the want versus the need — that causes these games we play to be a source of occasional, if not frequent, contention. It’s easy to take out one’s frustrations upon something we don’t necessarily need. And so those who haven’t found the value in sports, who haven’t shared the joy and emotion of sports that so many of us have, will attack them with vigor because they are not imperative to the everyday. They won’t feed us or clothe us or shelter us or supply us with the vitals we need to survive. They could therefore be deemed useless.
It’d be incredibly foolish to try and generalize some relationship between sports and acts of terror. Again, there is no good why for evil. So why pen relationships between two otherwise unrelated objects that have coincided on a day that should have been nothing but ordinary? We don’t need to do that.
For me, however, when I consider all the good in my own life, I know that sports play a significant role in bringing me all the happiness I will one day envision as I pass. From moments I’ve paid witness to, to moments I’ve shared with the people I care about, to memories that have etched themselves in my consciousness for all eternity, sports have become that one giant thing that has consistently defined my joy. It almost seems silly to say that, but then I think about the connections I have with my friends and family members — the connections I’ve made, the connections I was born with — and the majority of those kinships have either been borne out of or enhanced by some marriage to sports. These games we play have not just made my life better, in large part they’ve made my life what it is.
The evil exists to threaten the good and we all understand that. But when it’s our good that gets threatened — our thing, our oasis of happiness — that evil strikes a little closer to the heart than we thought possible.
As it stands, our good has thrived for so long for a reason. And our good will continue to flourish for that same reason. That reason is simple: the good will always triumph over the bad.
Sports are part of our good. They exist for a reason in times like these. They give us a needed distraction from the crap that infiltrates our day-to-day reality. There is a contingent of people out there that will seek to separate sports from anything else of worldly relevance — often referred to as the “stick to sports” crowd, since they want nothing more than to see sports stuck to, I suppose — but there are times when the world and sports coincide upon a star-crossed path. We can’t always stick to sports. And sports can’t always separate itself from more serious truths about life as a whole.
The fact is, we can’t control evil. Try as we might, evil will spontaneously rear its ugly head whether we like it or not. But we can control good. We can perpetuate all the good we want and nothing can stop us from doing that.
So I encourage you to play and watch and enjoy and be about the good that encompasses so much, including sports. When I die, I’ll remember finding a baseball in the Kingdome stands when I was five, I’ll remember hitting a home run, I’ll remember playoff runs and championships, I’ll remember the everlasting bonds I made with people I love through seemingly meaningless games we played. I’ve found my good in sports. I’m sure others may do the same.