Just a game

on September 2016 | in Sports | by Dario Passarelli | @PapaDart | with No Comments

I spent most of last week talking about expectations and getting emotionally invested in your favourite teams and players. There is nothing quite like the highs of 50,000 fans at Roger Centre erupting in melodic chaos as Jose “Bat Flip” Batista created another memorable moment when he crushed that three run homer to beat the Yankees on Saturday. Then about an hour later your heart sinks to that uneasy feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach as you saw Evgeny Kuznetzov and his wing-flapping celebration (man, I hate that) after putting Russia ahead 2-1 late in the second period. Before that tear can slide down and off your face though, your heart bursts through your lungs as Canada scores a few goals and wins their World Cup of Hockey semi-final matchup 5-3. Sports is an industry that is worth billions upon billions of dollars because it can create a cacophony (my old English teach would be proud of me for using that word) of cheers in an instant and then one of jeers in the next. We have come to understand that professional sports has a huge impact in our society and on an individual. We use our intelligence to interpret statistics so that we can engage in debates with friends and foe alike. It has a financial impact as we consume hot dogs, nachos, pop and adult beverages at the stadium or a house or your favourite local establishment. Sports has the power to bring light to social injustices as Colin Kaepernick has shown and sports even helps inspire our children to do bigger and better things than even we could have imagined possible. Sports has the power to do ALL of this and MORE. But then you wake up on what should be a beautiful autumn day and you get blindsided with news that shocks you to the realization that in the grand scheme of things, sports really doesn’t mean anything at all.

It’s just a game.

Jose Fernandez, pitcher for the Marlins, passed away at the young age of 24 as he was one of three people killed in a boating accident. In his short 4 year career, Fernandez was Rookie of the Year, a two-time All-Star amassing a winning record of 38-17. His path to the Majors was a rocky one as he tried three times to escape Cuba (getting jailed once) before he was successful. As fans we spend so much time elevating athletes as god-like figures or cutting them down as low-life demons that we tend to forget the one thing that matters. They, like us, are just people. As tragic as all deaths are, the death of an athlete still catches us off guard and makes us ponder a little longer than most as we reflect upon our own mortality.

At the same time nearly 5,000 kms away, another tragedy was announced early Sunday as Calgary Stampeders DB Mylan Hicks was shot and killed outside a nightclub. No further details were available at the moment but the team, fans and community are already struggling as they try to cope with the loss. Veteran DB Joshua Bell said, “Everybody doesn’t react the same but we lost family today, we’re hurting.” If that wasn’t enough sorrow for one day, one of the true legends of sport, Arnold Palmer also passed away at the age of 87. Before Rory and before Tiger, there was only one man who led the game of golf away from the country club elitists and made the game cool. It wasn’t just those in Arnie’s Army that loved him, but players and future players all revered him and owed him a great debt. As Mark O’Meara said at Palmer’s farewell at St. Andrews, “He made it possible for all of us to make a living at this game.”

Loss of life wasn’t the only difficult emotion to endure this weekend either. The feeling of helplessness also hit me upon hearing the news that former Toronto Raptor, Chris Bosh may not be cleared to play basketball again. The Miami Heat superstar was unable to pass his physical as he continues to have blood clotting issues which has already caused him to miss the second half of the previous two seasons. Whether you loved him as a Raptor or despised him as a Heat, you never wish anything like this on anybody. You begin to feel for these athletes and realize that maybe missing a shot here, striking out there or even (dare I say) losing a game, isn’t the end of the world as we know it. It helps puts things into perspective for both players and fans and hopefully shines a light on what really matters.

This doesn’t mean we stop playing or watching sports. In fact, sports’ also helps us to cope with loss and get back to any sense of normalcy. Therefore continue to watch the Blue Jays as they close the season in exciting fashion. This Yankee series has finally got me emotionally involved. With excellent pitching and manufacturing runs (surprisingly) via the “small ball,” they have begun to solidify a Wild Card spot. Cheer for Team Canada as they face Team Europe in the finals of the World Cup of Hockey. And yes, even get a wee bit excited for the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs with players such as Mitch Marner, Nikita Zaitsev, Morgan Reilly and yes dear editor, some kid by the name of Auston Matthews. It’s ok to be excited about all these things as it helps to serve two purposes. First, everyone grieves in their own way and yet sports’ will always be that warm, cozy security blanket that helps us believe everything is alright. Secondly, since those that passed away were also passionate about sports, in a small way, it does honour their memory.

RIP Jose Fernandez & Mylan Hicks & Arnold Palmer

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