Life is really cruel sometimes. It throws you curveballs, beats you up, spits you out, and really just treats you like it’s a big cat and you’re a ball of yarn. Life knows exactly how to hurt you, when to hurt you, where to hurt you. It can give you everything, but at the same time, it can take everything away.
Nobody knows why anything happens. And to be honest, maybe that’s not our place to ever really know. Life offers no answers to any questions, and at the same time, it provides every answer. Life is, in a word, life. That’s all there is to it.
Life gets very hard at times, and when it gets hard, it knows exactly how to get too hard to handle. You’re supposed to have moments in your lifetime when you sit down, cry, and let emotion out. Not every day is going to be happy, even though we have just a limited amount of time on this planet. And you’re going to have time to be angry, despondent, feel despair. You’re supposed to. That’s just a part of this thing of life.
But at the same time, it’s up to us to heal the holes life leaves behind. It’s up to us to find the way to soldier on, to find goodness, to find solutions out of something we can’t possibly fathom. It’s up to us to find what’s pure in our lives, to cling to what matters, to live in the moment.
I never really believed that sports could heal. I never believed that sports, as a constant in our lives, can help us walk through the very fires of a personal hell and pull us through on the other side. And while the long road back to some type of normalcy is just that (long), it’s something we all need to find comfort in as we make the journey back. No, we’re never the same; we’re not supposed to be. But when those moments get too hard to deal with, we can always look to the purity of a game, the absolute perfection of honest competition, and it can help heal us.
The Games of the XXX Olympiad are over. The lights went down in London, England in the United Kingdom on Sunday, and with it, thousands of memories became etched in the past. They stopped making history and simply became history. The heroes of 2012 and the competition became something we can’t go back and relive, can’t go back and rewind. We can’t replay them with the same type of emotion we felt as we first watched them, and all the outcomes are now predetermined and probably well-known.
But still, there’s something to be said for what that purity of sports can do. The Olympics were, by all accounts, wildly successful. Transportation, security, and excitement lurked strong behind every corner. Every venue laid itself out in a perfect sense of where it should be, and those who attended all remarked about how they were able to enjoy London’s city streets while at the same time maximizing the events they could watch.
The events themselves were something of a two-week odyssey of emotions. Every athlete lived the moment, whether it was the exhiliration of Aly Raisman‘s victories or the bitter disappointment of McKayla Maroney‘s defeat. Tears were real. Smiles were real. And time, even if for one day, one event stood still.
For that reason, sports showed how its purity can have the power to heal. Even the most jaded Boston sports fan could follow the Olympics and be taken away from the imploding Boston Red Sox and the inauspicious start of the New England Patriots. That fan could turn away from John Lackey double-fisting beers and Josh Beckett being well….Josh Beckett. They could turn on a channel at any part of the day, and they could watch an event, live or taped, that let them feel and live in the moment.
But this about life. This goes beyond sports. The emotions expressed by this once-every-four-years event healed even the worst bleeding emotional wound. And even if it didn’t heal, it stemmed some of the bleeding the aching heart could feel. When life was beating someone down, for two weeks they could turn on a station and forget about it all. They could enjoy people competing simply to compete, something transcending life and a very-harsh reality.
Somewhere along the way, sports loses that. It becomes about multimillionaires, egomaniacs, and labor lockouts. It becomes about personal transgressions, attitudes, and the slighting of fans. It becomes more about money and power than it does about winning and competing. And when that happens, we can lose hope, we can lose the real meaning of what sports means.
I’ve written thousands of articles over the years, and I’ve written a couple of hundred on this very website. I’ve watched hours of coverage. I’ve seen the downfall of a championship program, the very evils of mankind. I’ve lost hope. I’ve found despair. But through it all, at a moment when I saw personally as a moment of self-denial and withdrawal, I found the meaning of sports. And that healed me.
The truth is – we all have opinions about the multimillionaires who make their money playing a kids’ game. But in the end, that’s all it is – a game. We need to remember why we love the game, and we need to put the rest of it out of our minds. We need to remember that sports isn’t about Sweet Caroline or Bobby Valentine, and it’s not about Lebron James and the “Heatles.” It’s not about Gary Bettman. It’s about finding and connecting to what we loved as kids, what keeps us fresh, what blocks out the rest of the world.
In the end, sports are pure. It’s still a ball, still a bat, still a game. It’s still a Saturday night in a small quaint town, in a small quaint stadium, where money doesn’t matter. It’s still enjoying it with the bright-eyed look of children, and it’s still looking forward to just going out and competing. Wins or losses don’t matter. It’s about laying your emotions on the line. And in that, we can heal ourselves, through our anger and our despair. We can heal each other.