In the face of tragedy sports should know its place.
Recently, the Minnesota community showed it knew where that was.
On Wednesday 1 August, the eight-lane I-35W bridge in downtown Minnesota, Minneapolis suddenly collapsed. Tons of cars, motoring along during rush-hour, were tossed into the Mississippi River.
At least five people are confirmed dead with some thirty persons missing and roughly another 100 wounded.
Everyone did what they could to understand and respect the situation. People researched American bridges, some helped with the affected families. The Minnesota sports teams postponed all major happenings for the next day.
In the scheme of things, it is certainly understandable to think the sports scene had a minimal role. After all, their biggest impact on the situation was cancelling events. Meanwhile, people went out of their way and risked their livelihoods to save lives.
But consider what was going on around the time of the collapse. The Minnesota Twins were playing baseball games at home. Their stadium, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, can hold over 45,000 people. Plans were also in place to launch the ground-breaking of the new baseball stadium.
The Minnesota Timberwolves were announcing the monumental trade of their long-time franchise player. Many reporters from around the globe were expected to show up to cover the news conference.
Imagine if all those things had gone on as expected around the accident. Imagine the amount of people that would needlessly be in the way of rescue efforts. Imagine the kind of hell commuters would face.
For me, Twins president Dave St. Peter had it right. The lives of those being rescued and in distress are most important.
St. Peter made the bold decision to let his team keep playing Wednesday’s game against the Kansas City Royals. He feared the impact of an immediate surge of traffic from people leaving the game.
In times of tragedies, sports should serve the role of healer. The decision to play games should be based on their ability to soothe the mind and emotions. The purpose of sports should evolve into helping ease the pain of loss and suffering its spectators (and players) have.
The fall of the World Trade Center was the perfect example. Games went on at the request of President Bush. He felt the country, and ultimately the world, needed an outlet to ensure it carry on with normal life. Players and fans alike had heavy hearts but carried on nevertheless.
I had mixed feelings about the decision to let games be played then. I wondered how important sports really were when unidentified bodies lay missing. I was disturbed that some had the heart to play or watch a game while others fought for and lost their lives.
Now, I think the decision to play back then was best. If no one played, where would sports be today? If no played, where would people around the world be mentally?
I know the events of 11 September were six years ago. But just consider the fact that there are some people today who haven’t got over it.
Moreover, look at us. There are still many Caymanians who haven’t recovered after Ivan’s passing three years ago. In fact, our sports scene has a whole has not fully recovered.
At the end of the day, sports are what the public makes them. If they’re gods unto themselves then they will be a domineering part of the community that will look ugly in times of tragedies. If the public keeps them in check, then they can be a supportive part of our daily lives that turns beautiful in hard times.
Ultimately, no member of either Minnesota sports team was injured. No fan was hurt and games are able to carry on as usual today. Furthermore, Minnesota baseball and basketball were able to escape a tragedy unharmed.