Sports for the soul

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Sports for the soul

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Issue Date:Friday April 20, 2007
Section: Sports Section
Patrick Southern, Sports Writer

Sometimes it takes a life-changing event to shake you to your very core and remind you what really matters.

For the countless people who are suffering in ways that defy comprehension following the stunning events at Virginia Tech, that lesson came in the toughest form possible.

While I'm fortunate that I don't have to mourn the loss of any personal friends or family, I sincerely feel the pain of those who do.

As DA Sports Editor Tim Tassa eloquently said in his Tuesday column, such tragedies "make sports seem so petty, so irrelevant."

It's cliche to say so, but it's true. I know that by noon on Monday, I cared a lot less about how my Boston Red Sox would fare in their Patriots Day game against the Angels than I had when I woke up.

In the wake of the campus shooting, the Hokies called off the remainder of their spring football drills and canceled all sporting events scheduled for the following days.

These moves were in the best interest of all involved. At that point, no one needed the distraction of competition when the hearts and minds of all of those at VT were elsewhere.

After all, athletes and coaches deserve the chance to grieve too.

However, the moratorium on athletics at Virginia Tech ends today, when the school's baseball squad hosts Miami.

To most, this event will mean little in light of the heartache the community has suffered. After all, college baseball games go on every day nationwide at this time of year.

But in this case, the ping of the aluminum bat and the unmistakable snap of a solid fastball against a catcher's mitt will be the first sound of life beginning to return to normal in Blacksburg.

While it's true that tragedy makes us realize how meaningless the wins and losses of our teams really are, it's every bit as true that athletics are a significant part of our lives.

Sporting events are more than just a good excuse for people to get together and drink a few beers while debating the merits of blitzing off the edge on third and long.

No, in times like this, we're reminded that sports are so important to us because they're a sure sign of normal life in abnormal times.

It's that importance that made renditions of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America" take on such added meaning at baseball games following the attacks of 9/11.

And it's the sense of unity and togetherness that sports foster that led the thousands of mourners at Virginia Tech's memorial convocation Tuesday to ditch button-down shirts and dress slacks in favor of their favorite maroon and orange Hokie T-shirt.

When those in attendance at that same service struggled to express themselves beyond their tears, they went back to the same cheers that echo through Lane Stadium on any given Saturday in the fall.

The mourners' chants of "Let's go, Hokies" reverberated through Cassell Coliseum, punctuated with the rhythmic clapping and repetition that is typically better suited to sporting events than soul-searching.

But in that moment, for those who gathered to find a sense of community when pain seemed poised to take over their lives, those three simple words took on all the meaning of a chorus of "Amazing Grace."

Instead of rallying their athletic heroes to another victory, the Virginia Tech faithful were chanting to rally their own flagging spirits.

It's easy for us to make sports trivial in the wake of traumatic events, because tragedy always makes us step back and evaluate our priorities in life.

But for the thousands of VT students who are longing for some sense of "normal," today's first pitch is the first small step back toward simpler times in Blacksburg.

Let's go, Hokies.

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Original Source: The Daily Athenaeum
<a href="http://www.da.wvu.edu/show_article.php?&story_id=27626">http://www.da.wvu.edu/show_article.php?&story_id=27626</a>

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Patrick Southern

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2008-02-18

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Kacey Beddoes

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Leann Ray <Leann.Ray@mail.wvu.edu>

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eng

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Patrick Southern, "Sports for the soul," in The April 16 Archive, Item #1703, http://april16archive.org/items/show/1703 (accessed October 1, 2014).