Saturday, March 8, 2008


Sports, despite the controversies that stir within, serve as the world's greatest distraction. For us as fans, they prove to take us away from the insanity of the every day by attending, listening or watching the games and focus on something else. This has been proven thoughout our written history; during wars, economic downturns, natural disasters, assasinations and other global catastrophies.

For the participants, they can be the salvation from what hurts them off the field of play. A ball in hand and a mind numb from their personal pains, the games are more than jobs, but actually become therapeutic in dealing with their problems. Some of sports' greatest players and teams had inspiring performances under personal duress as Michael Jordan, Brett Favre or recently, the Washington Redskins after the murder of Sean Taylor.

Yet, it is something to witness how sports are a galvanizing force in the collegiate ranks.

Eleven months ago, we witnessed what seems to now be a new genesis of campus murders. For those who do not recall that fateful Monday April 16th in Blacksburg, 33 people - including the gunman - were gunned down at Virginia Tech in the deadliest school shooting in United States history.

No more is this evident these days than in college campuses around the country. With the murder of student body president Eve Carson days ago, the University of North Carolina finds itself in mourning while it prepares to celebrate its seemingly annual NCAA tournament appearance. Their beloved Tar Heels took on their biggest rival, the Duke Blue Devils, in Durham. For just a few moments, the hatred between both camps was set aside as the Cameron Crazies had a moment of silence for the 22-year-old. Of course, as Carson or every other UNC supporter would have asked for, the game itself played on with the same exact intensity as all of the previous 224 matchups between them.

Though this may be the most known instance of sports as healing instrument so far this year, it isn't even the first killing of a college student as there have been two other tragedies this year, both occuring on campus. While little coverage of the Louisiana Technical College shooting has not lend itself to a call of rememberance outside of Baton Rouge, the only sports connections anyone may be aware of comes from Northern Illinois. After four students were killed at the Dekalb school, the shockwaves shook further east in Blacksburg. Students at the Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech men's basketball game wore "Hokies for Huskies" t-shirts. Chicago White Sox General Manager Ken Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen wore the school's caps during spring training in tribute. The Blackhawks have worn decals on their helmets. More importantly, just as the Tar Heels and the Hokies before them, the Huskies' athletic teams played on with heavy hearts.

Mourning in professional sports is equally profound, but not necessarily in the manner that it does in college. Whether it is UNC or Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois or Marshall or even your own alma mater, these are relatively small, insulated communities with young adults largely on their own for the first time in their lives. Unlike the real world, these students look over their shoulders to see one of their own almost ninety-percent of the time. In some ways still feeding off of their tumultuous teenage years, college students - especially those who live on campus - revel in their youth though all of the social outlets their schools offer, including their sports. Yet, when a piece of the less sanitized real world enters the tranquil and ideally free college campus, it can shatter the spirit of the student body.

Or it can strengthen it.

The countless tributes both on and off campus tell these students that society at-large empathizes with their pain. While the every day murders of people across the globe may invoke nothing more than a shrug, the interruption of ideal collegiate innocence actually pauses society, if only for a small moment. Yet, at times when a college or university may reassess its security - literally and figuratively - their athletic programs serve as symbols that show the world that the victims are remembered though every basket, every pass, every pitch, every save and every game played.

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