Sports world bands together when tragedies strike down

Nathan Miller

I’ve never known how to respond to tragedies. I’m always thrown off by my personal response to such situations and how desensitized I am to momentous events in the history of humanity. Perhaps because I’m forced to receive my information from a media framework that thrives on human loss, suffering and pain, that incidents of such magnitude seem to happen every day – whether in Blacksburg, Va., the Darfur region of Sudan or the jungles of the Philippines.

But what I do know, no matter how darkened the human spirit becomes in times of hate, that the good embedded in our souls seems to come forward. Especially in America, where a violent situation of this proportion is not just a cheap shot to those who personally lost, but also to Americans, who although didn’t know the victims personally, lost a fellow American. Patriotism was never higher in the times following the incidents of Sept. 11, Katrina and now, Virginia Tech.

We were all Hokies that day and will continue to be as we watch the sports teams of Virginia Tech progress throughout the next couple of years. Not a single sportscaster will hesitate to remind us of what happened on April 16, 2007. Why, to pull on heartstrings? Perhaps, but more so to remind us that life goes on and that even though it’s not much, a positive step is being taken in a town and institution that could have been crushed by such a tragedy.

This is why I love sports. Sports are a reflection of society and just like society, a reflection of good versus bad. Sure, some of us reporters get caught up in contract debacles, steroid scandals, illegal recruiting, etcetera. But that’s not what it’s about. The true story is when humanity prevails, when the impossible becomes possible. There is nothing more appealing when an individual overcomes physical, mental, racial, social and economic barriers to reach the top of the sports world. We applaud such achievements.

There was not an individual that didn’t want the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl following Sept. 11. It couldn’t have been a more suitable symbol to the immense gathering of Americans coming together in the name of patriotism in the months prior. This was a time when Tom Brady was just a quarterback from Michigan, and Bill Belichick was still riding on the coat tail of mentor Bill Parcels.

I personally received chills watching the return of the Saints in New Orleans on Monday Night Football. That moment, even though only lasting three hours, will be immortalized in a long and rich New Orleans history. The people of New Orleans rallied around the Saints and their run this year, giving those still in need a reminder that hope and, more importantly, miracles are still possible. As a Bears fan, considering the Super Bowl outcome, I probably wouldn’t have minded if the Saints went all the way this past year.

For the people of Blacksburg, Va., the Hokies are their Saints. The men and women in maroon and orange uniforms are no longer athletes, but a symbol for a community that is trying to rebound from a tragedy. So on April 16, today, tomorrow and the day after next, there is no question – we’re all Hokies.