LYONS: The impact of sports during tragedy


LYONS: The impact of sports during tragedy


By:Chris Lyons
Posted: 4/19/07

Originally, I was planning on writing a column about the debauchery that is Marathon Monday. As one of the biggest days here at our school, it only seemed right to dedicate an entire column taking a look at the day many students compare to Christmas.

Everything started out according to plan. As the day began and the race went off with minimal rain. It seemed as though all would turn out OK.

It's amazing how things can change in a blink of an eye.

Since coming to school here at BU, I've stressed over numerous "problems" that all college students go through when they arrive in a new environment. Making friends, meeting girls (or boys) and rooting for athletic teams that give everyone stress at some point or another. Education, of course, can be thrown into this category as well.

None of those seemed to matter when I went to check my computer Monday morning while taking a break in the Marathon action.

As I went to as I always do, the breaking news at Virginia Tech put everything into perspective. All the things I constantly worry about as a sports fan were irrelevant once again. Suddenly, the marathon didn't matter. The Red Sox game being played down the street didn't matter. The wins and losses of Boston University athletics that I've worried about for the past three years didn't matter.

Feelings reminiscent of those I had when I first heard of the Columbine High School shootings and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks rushed into my head. It seemed as though the death toll continued to rise each time I refreshed the page until the number reached 32 killed by a crazed gunman.

Trying to talk about athletics at the time of a tragedy of this magnitude almost seems senseless. No matter how much passion we put into supporting or playing sports, they are just games at the end of the day.

But somehow, sports always help play a huge role in the recovery process in situations like these.

Columbine's football team's success the season after the 1999 shootings was a feel-good story about a community coming together after tragedy. I still get goose bumps every time I watch New England Patriots lineman Joe Andruzzi - brother of two New York firefighters - run on to the field at Gillette Stadium holding American flags in each hand when the NFL came back after Sept. 11.

Sports seem to offer our country an escape from tragedy and a way of coming together as a group with a common bond. They give us something to rally around.

At no level is this more evident than in collegiate athletics. A team can bring a school together. Here at BU, hockey is a borderline religion for many. Our campus is stuffed with students from all over the country -- world, even -- who are as diverse as can be. But every Friday or Saturday night in the fall and winter, Agganis Arena fills to root on the common bond that we all share.

While watching the images of Virginia Tech students in mourning the past few days, one thing stood out to me.

First, the "Let's go Hokies!" chant at the memorial service on Tuesday. Cheers that Virginia Tech students use at sporting events are now being used to bring their campus together during these trying times.

And it's spreading beyond their campus, too. Similar to "U.S.A." chants following Sept. 11, "Everyone is a Hokie" is being heard on campuses throughout the nation. Athletic pride is turning into a nation's pride for a campus in Blacksburg, Va. that experienced the worst shooting in U.S. history.

So while we always say sports are just games and have little meaning, they clearly offer us comfort in times of tragedy, at least in some sense. On a small scale or large, they have helped our country survive some of our saddest moments. And they will now be part of an effort to move on at Virginia Tech.

On Friday, Virginia Tech's baseball team will be the first Hokies squad to step onto the playing field since Monday's shootings, and several other teams will continue their seasons this weekend.

I don't think I'll be alone in rooting for all of their athletes in their effort to help the campus move forward. America's Team has found a new home in my mind. Let's Go Hokies.

Chris Lyons, a junior in the College of Communication, is a weekly columnist for The Daily Free Press. He can be reached at


Original Source:<a href=>The Daily Free Press - April 19, 2007</a>


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Chris Lyons, “LYONS: The impact of sports during tragedy,” The April 16 Archive, accessed March 2, 2024,