Columnists, Sports

Dropping the Gloves: Sports are more important now than ever

David Ortiz rallied Bostonians with a patriotic speech after the Boston Marathon bombings. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIPEDIA
David Ortiz rallied Bostonians with a patriotic speech after the Boston Marathon bombings. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIPEDIA

When the world is faced with intense peril and destruction, there is one thing that can always bring us together.

Your race, gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or nationality are all irrelevant when you’re playing or watching sports.

Of course there are vicious rivalries in the world of sports, but once you step off the playing field, there is a general consensus to respect everyone.

No matter the rivalry, the foundation of sports lies in the love of the game.

In this past weekend, the world saw protests following President Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. and across the country. The 2016 election cycle was one of the most divisive in history. It pitted friends and family against each other, and seemingly forced everyone to take a side.

Trump is perhaps the most polarizing American figure of this century, and the recent Women’s March protests and the reactions to protesters seem to indicate that we still have a long way to go when it comes it national unity.

Sports may be a good place to begin.

In our world, things are increasingly becoming absolute, with no place in the middle and no respect for the other side.

While the emotional ties to your favorite sports teams make you biased, most sports fans can come to an agreement, even after a heated debate.

There are still many people who despise LeBron James, but no one denies his greatness on the basketball court or his philanthropy.

The Chicago Cubs recently visited the White House to celebrate their 2016 World Series victory. Then-President Barack Obama discussed the power of sports and the love that is spread between fans, players and administrators.

“Sports has the power to bring us together, even when the country is divided,” Obama said.

The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox have one of the greatest sports rivalries of all time, but when Mariano Rivera and David Ortiz were players, they were great friends off the field.

When Rivera retired in 2013, Ortiz was all smiles when the Red Sox played the Yankees for the last time of that season. Ortiz presented Rivera with one of the many gifts given from the Red Sox organization.

Three years later, Rivera unveiled a custom painting at Ortiz’s farewell ceremony at Yankee Stadium.

Among Yankee fans, there is tremendous respect for Ortiz as a man and a player, even though he has broken the hearts of New Yorkers many times.

And in Boston, you’d be hard-pressed to find a baseball fan who doesn’t believe that Mariano Rivera is the best closer in the history of baseball.

Sports fans live for the celebration. Whether it’s in the end zone, on the ice or around the bases, fans everywhere enjoy the passion and love that players give to their sport.

Of course sports has seen its fair share of riots, but the emphasis is always on the celebration. These celebrations bring together people from all walks of life.

An estimated five million fans, from the blue-collar towns across Illinois to those from urban Chicago, from seniors who waited their whole lives for this moment to youngsters who were spared years of misery, showed up at the Chicago Cubs parade after they won the World Series for the first time since 1908, which broke the biggest curse in sports history.  

Sports are the most powerful and most uniting in some of the darkest moments.

When Boston was struck with terror after two bombs detonated near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, Ortiz and the Red Sox brought everyone back up.

Ortiz’s declaration from the first game at Fenway after the bombings were “This is our [expletive] city,” and it is forever ingrained in the minds of sports fans everywhere.

Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005. The city was almost struck with another disaster when rumors of the Saints moving to San Antonio surfaced.

If the team had moved, the city may not have recovered as well as it did. When the Saints played their first game back in the Superdome a year later, the 23-3 victory over the Atlanta Falcons brought hope back to a displaced community.

Sports bring us together. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe in, everyone shares the same love for the game.

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