The healing power of football

In Sports on August 31, 2007 at 6:48 pm

Since when did football become a balm for damaged communities? First, we had the hand-wringing over when it would be OK to resume football after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Then Katrina ruined thousands of lives, and the Saints returning to New Orleans a year later was puffed up into a healing ceremony by the TV sports druids. (New Orleans is still a festering, necrotic ulcer — football don’t rebuild no houses. Neither do the guv’mint or the insurance companies, evidently.)

Now it’s Virginia Tech’s turn.

After the tragic shooting on campus April 16 that left 33 people dead, many students and members of the Blacksburg community looked toward the Hokies’ first game as another milestone in helping the school return to a sense of normalcy.

“I do believe that this school will come back tighter, stronger, more together, more caring, more respectful of each other than ever before,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “And there’s probably not a greater place to show it than in a stadium where, if you’re there – the alumni, the students, the fans, whatever – you’re all going in the same direction.

“People just want something to rally around.”

Don’t get me wrong. I have great sympathy for the grieving people of the Gulf Coast and Blacksburg, Va. And I love me some football. (I’ve had NFL preseason games on in the background quite a bit and am stoked that college ball’s started.) But football is entertainment. It doesn’t solve our problems. It doesn’t pay our bills. It doesn’t mend a broken heart.

Sports are a welcome diversion and, sure, there’s an emotional component and a sense of community among fans of a particular team. And that’s plenty. Why make them out to have more power than they do?


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