April 19, 2007

Putting Sports Into Perspective

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I had planned a different column. I was ready to write about some other topic, deal with some other set of issues. But, if you’re a student, do you really care about sports right now? I know I don’t, not that much anyway. I’ll write that other column for a different day.
It’s hard to put energy into sports when something terrible looms over you. It doesn’t matter that it was 500 miles away, that I never knew any of the victims or that I don’t know anyone with personal connections to it. How do you react when the deadliest shooting in our country’s history happens? It’s shocking, sad and terrifying; it’s disheartening and troubling; it’s disturbing.
And it was on a college campus. The location of this tragedy reaffirms that, unfortunately, acts of violence can happen at any time and in any place. I want to help: help those grieving; help our community, if it needs it; help on our own campus to make sure no one ever feels like violence is the answer. We all do.
So, the things I love in sports just don’t matter that much to me at this point. For example, I couldn’t get myself to watch the Yankees-Indians highlights yesterday. They’re easily accessible and I wanted to see two of the American League’s best offensive players in Alex Rodriguez and Travis Hafner. The game and its tantalizing matchup, however, just didn’t seem that important — after all, the highlights will still be there tomorrow — and imagining the look of disgust on former Sun Assistant Sports Editor Paul Testa’s face was satisfying enough.
As of last night, the New York Rangers were one game from a sweep of the Atlanta Thrashers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I actually jumped up from my chair when I saw the 7-0 score from Game 3 early Tuesday morning, but I didn’t bother to read the box score. I don’t even know who won Game 4 last night, despite the fact that the Rangers haven’t advanced in the playoffs in a decade.
And rumors that my all-time favorite athlete Zinedine Zidane is being pursued by Chivas USA have me beyond excited — though not optimistic — yet, you won’t find me scouring the internet for information.
Instead, I’ve been doing the only thing I can think of doing right now: reading. I spent some time looking at clippings from news outlets around the country: CNN, Fox, The New York Times, collegemedia.com — the Virginia Tech campus newspaper, whose website has been at the forefront of the media coverage since the first shooting — and even ESPN.
The sports network has been relaying statements from Virginia Tech coaches and former student-athletes like Michael Vick and DeAngelo Hall. It added extra coverage of the Nationals wearing “VT” hats. The network’s website has been providing direct links to coverage on ABC, its parent company. Yes, it’s partly a marketing tool, but I’m glad to see ESPN acknowledge that something could actually be more important than the 2007 NFL Draft. Even the online columnists have produced some compelling features, from the center fielder Curtis Granderson’s blog to Mark Schlabach’s piece on some of the Virginia Tech coaches’ chilling moments during the ordeal. The coverage has been unpleasantly captivating.
Could the violence have been prevented, or was there realistically nothing that could’ve been done? We won’t know the answers for a while, and certainly, sports hold no answers right now.
There are times when it seems like sports are life or death: the events of April 16 put that view to rest.
Josh Perlin is The Sun’s Sports Editor. My Pitch appears on alternate Thursdays. He can be contacted at [email protected].