Thursday, April 18, 2013

More than Games

     On April 15, 2013, a bomb went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three innocent people, each with their own hopes, dreams, and aspirations, are now dead, at the hands one man’s twisted virtue. However, in times of tragedy humanity has always found a way, a will to succeed, a light in the darkness, and continues on with God-given strength. We as people have consistently shown an uncanny resilience. It seems that our most shining moments come in our darkest hours, and no single part of our culture is more emblematic of that rare ability than athletics. In short, it’s always more than a game. It’s about taking a stand. It’s about making a statement. It’s about us.

     Sports have always been about dominance. One must be bigger, faster, and stronger in order to succeed. It’s not about beating your opponent. It’s about destroying them. Crushing them. Owning them. Despite all this, the most powerful moments in the history of athletics have come when opponents, be it on the field or in the game of life, have come together in solidarity for the betterment of society, standing unafraid in the face of adversity. For example, FC Barcelona sponsored a game between Palestinian and Israeli nationals in an effort to promote peace in the Middle East. Another example can be found in the story of Jackie Robinson. While his play and status as the first to break baseball’s color barrier deserve recognition, no single instance of personal solidarity is more obvious than when his teammate, the Caucasian Pee Wee Reese, walked across the diamond to embrace the second baseman despite jeers from the crowd. Athletics give people, regardless of race, color, or creed, a chance to work for a common goal. The love of the game alone, no matter how trivial, brings them together. He who competes no longer lives as an individual but, at least for a time, functions as a member of a community to overcome obstacles.

     Sports also give us a chance to show upstanding moral character and provide a forum for positive change.  Tommie Smith and John Carlos worked together with Australian sprinter Peter Norman in the 1968 Olympics to make a lasting impact on human rights and race relations with one of the most iconic moments in Olympic history-the infamous gloved fist protest racism. "If I win, I am American, not a black American,” Smith stated later. However, what one group of people or nation does not do is often just as important. In 1980, our great nation made a decision to avoid the Sochi Olympics in order to protest (and to my homeroom teacher I apologize) the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the governmental abuses rampant in Communism. Later on, the two nations squared off in a hockey match that would come to be known as the “Miracle on Ice” which is still seen to be emblematic of Capitalism’s triumph over Communism and freedom over oppression; although in reality it was “just a hockey game.” And while it may be hard to believe, but at one time, North and South Korea decided to walk under one flag during the Olympics in a symbolic gesture of unity despite stark differences-that they chose to do so in a competition was telling of a newfound community. On April 15, runners who had just struggled through 26 miles ran 2 more to donate blood for their fallen brothers and sisters. They willingly gave of themselves so that others may live-a group mentality found in all sports. The day after the bombing, the Boston Red Sox sent a message that their city would not be defeated by drubbing the Cleveland Indians 7-2. The bombers tried to bring out the worst in us but, in the end, and in part through Athletics, only showed the great heights we can achieve.
      No politician’s speech, Congressional law, or statue truly embody the human experience like sports do. Athletics bring us together when politics cannot; the PRC and the US did bond over ping-pong after all. People put down grenades to celebrate goals, revel in made baskets rather than detonated bombs, and count touchdowns instead of tactical strikes, all in the names of mere games. They serve society not by their ability to entertain, but by providing shining examples of excellence and moral integrity in situations symbolic of human life. As we mourn in the wake of unspeakable tragedy, it is important to know that people will always find a way to persevere. We are not finished with the race to recovery; we are just starting but be confident that nobody will run it better than the United States of America. It’s more than a race. It’s about making a statement. It’s about taking a stand. It’s about us. 

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