Nearly one week ago, the average sports fan was treated to some of the best matchups of this young year.
We saw an improbable victory by the Seahawks over the Saints in a contest many saw as a game New Orleans would use as a primer to make another deep run into the playoffs. However, one 67-yard statement run near the end of the game by a largely invisible Marshawn Lynch put the nail or 8 nails, in the Saints coffin.
And as if that game wasn’t good enough, we witnessed New York and a young Mark Sanchez lead his J-E-T-S to victory over arch nemesis Payton Manning and the short handed Indianapolis Colts.
Sprinkled in between, and for those who cared, was the BBVA Compass Bowl featuring Kentucky and the coachless Pitt Panthers. I heard it was an interesting contest, but honestly, I could have really cared less about any other games that weren’t BCS related.
But in the backdrop of the playoffs and the rooting interests of those whose alma maters were engaged in a bowl only meaningful to them, was another ominous event waiting to place a stranglehold on our attention and shake the nation to its very core.
While many of us were waiting for what was considered the best college football game of the season in Glendale, AZ., a young man was readying himself to place Arizona in the spotlight for other, ominous reasons.
During the afternoon of June 8, while individuals, families and bystanders were at a shopping center in Tucson waiting for their congressional representative to meet with them, Jared Laughner inexplicably walked into the peaceably assembled crowd and opened fire.
From all accounts, his primary target appeared to be Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, whom he shot in the back of from not more than four feet away. As she fell to the ground, Laughner continued firing without rhyme or reason striking 20 people, killing six and leaving several others, including Giffords in critical condition.
As many of us watched the news unfold, we couldn’t help but ask ourselves why? Why is it when we cannot disagree and move on, some of us resort to violence? Why is it that our rhetoric and our discourse, which many rational folks see as just that, rhetoric — is able to be taken seriously by those who chose to, solve questions through senseless acts of violence?
Why do we spend so much time tearing each other down while narcissistically building ourselves up? Meanwhile, someone is out there on the other end of the television or radio readying themselves for “second amendment remedies?”
All these questions ran through my mind as I saw a shopping center become a trauma center on a peaceful, calm and inviting day. As gurneys hurriedly evacuated patients to awaiting ambulances, I thought about those individuals that witnessed their family and friends mowed down by a lunatic without empathy for those he targeted and no regard for human life.
And then the white sheeted gurneys began to appear as the dead were solemnly wheeled away. Even though we are seemingly immune to the violence as we are subjected to it daily on our televisions through programs, and movies, nothing can quite prepare someone for the senseless carnage that presents itself in our streets and public places.
For nearly 10 years, our country has been engaged in two wars across a vast ocean. It has gotten to the point where it is more or less reality TV to us or we try to ignore it by turning the channel and adopting a head in the sand mentality by claiming “that’s over there, not here.”
But when the violence hits close to home, in places my family and your family would and could be on a regular basis, it begins to immensely alter one’s perspective. And many of us do what we as American’s are conditioned to do, stop, pause, reflect and move on—often within a few days. This is one of those times where we need to seriously reflect on ourselves, hold our lawmakers accountable and act as we claim ourselves and our nation to be; a compassionate melting pot of cultures and ideas. A place where our laws and principles hold no place for bigotry hate and unmitigated violence. A nation where I can disagree with you, you can disagree with me and we can still be amicable, not enemies when the debate is done.
But most importantly, we must become a nation of responsibility, respect and tolerance.
It’s ironic that it is engrained in our children to accept responsibility, respect each other and treat others as we are to be treated. But there seems to be an age where we abandon those principles, and respect is trumped by intolerance. We treat others worse than we would treat a known enemy and responsibility gives way to passing blame and claiming “not me.”
Where has all the civility gone? Where are all the dreamers? Where is the next generation of leaders that will lead us through the darkness only to have us emerge immersed in the beacon of hope this nation was so eloquently described as by President Reagan?
I wish I knew the answer, but I don’t. I wish I could push a button and solve all of the world’s problems in one fell swoop, but it is impossible, for what I want is not what everyone else wants. And that leads us directly back to where we are right now. And I’m afraid, prophetically, that is what will be the cause of the next tragedy that will unnerve us all. But as much as I want to have all the answers and all of the solutions, it only becomes even more nerve wracking and I find myself needing an escape if only for a few fleeting moments.
That is what makes sports great. It has the ability to, if only for three hours; take our minds off the reality that is our world. It gives us the ability to bond and share something, whether it is fandom or the hatred of each other’s teams, it brings us together and in some primeval way makes us a little more civil toward one another.
Sure we may not like some athletes, but we have to acknowledge the opportunity they give us to escape from the doom, gloom and tragedies of our world. When I watch the Cowboys, I am reminded of how much they suck, which pushes that fact that there are two wars going on in the back of my head.
There is no Guantanamo when a Dirk led Mavericks team is throttling the Spurs or the Stars…are doing something irrelevant because it is hockey. This is not to say I am diminishing our real world problems, but sometimes we have to escape in order to recalibrate. It helps us place things in perspective a little better and then come back and make decisions that are beneficial to ourselves and those around us.
As our fellow Americans are laid to rest this week, let us understand and appreciate their lives and our own lives. And after they’ve been eulogized and the families have all gone, take time to spend with your own family and do something together. Tell them you love them while watching the Patriots and Jets battle or dissect the differences in the 3-4 techniques between the Ravens and Steelers.
It doesn’t matter what it is you do, just take some precious time and spend it on someone you love. Then spread it amongst those you come in contact with and pretty soon we will have begun to solve our nation’s biggest predicaments; communication.
This is your escape; experience it or forever regret that you wished you had.
Peace be unto you.