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Zuba: Rallying in the face of tradgedy (Sept. 18)

Samantha Zuba | Tuesday, September 17, 2013


In the wake of tragedy, sometimes it’s the little gestures that count.

The Washington Nationals made one of those gestures Tuesday after the shooting at Washington D.C.’s Navy Yard, a few blocks away from Nationals Park.

The Nationals postponed Monday’s game against the Braves after the shooting, and an area near one of the parking lots at Nationals Park became the central meeting place for families and friends seeking loved ones who worked at the Navy Yard. 

And you can bet there was an emotional moment Tuesday before the Nationals and Braves played the first game of what had turned into a doubleheader.

Vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral James A. Winnefeld Jr., visited with players before the game and handed out blue and gold Navy hats that players wore during pregame warmups. Players kept the hats on for a moment of silence honoring the victims before the first pitch. 

With a simple gesture, the Nationals showed respect and support for their neighborhood.

Every once in a while, we see one of these moments in sports, when everyone on the field, in the stands and watching on TV stops to remember that there are a lot of things in this world bigger than sports.

We saw it after the bombings at the Boston Marathon. The Red Sox showed a moving video honoring the victims and the heroes from the day, and the crowd displayed “Boston Strong” posters.

Then David Ortiz gave a short but powerful speech. Whether or not you took offense at his use of the f-bomb, he spoke from his heart, and it was a rousing cry of support for his adopted city.

That’s what it’s all about – support. Sports are about coming together to support a team, and it’s pretty darn neat when teams and fans extend that support to people who are hurting.

We saw it after September 11th. Major League Baseball cancelled every game that Tuesday. The Yankees played their next game on the road against the White Sox, and fans displayed a sign in right field that read simply: “Chicago loves New York. God Bless America.”

At the first Yankee home game after the tragedy, the Yankees remembered the victims and honored New York police officers and firefighters during an emotional pregame ceremony. It was a most heartfelt expression of remembrance and a powerful “thank you.” 

Fans unfurled banners that read “United We Stand” and “God Bless America” as they waved countless American flags. It reminded everyone that sports are just one part of our culture, and there are many other things that connect us.

When Sammy Sosa hit his 59th home run two weeks later, he circled the bases with an American flag, and every player in the league wore an American flag patch for the rest of the season. Players and fans, who had already come together for sports, united for something even more important – to say “we are a community and we stand together.”

A year later, ball clubs continued to show their respect and support by emblazoning “We Shall Not Forget” on their fields for games on Sept. 11, 2002.

After a tragedy, sports are hardly the most important thing. But sports teams and fans have made some beautifully sincere gestures over the years.

It reminds us how people in a community can support each other. It reminds us why we go to stadiums for games in the first place – to be with our friends, our family. The people we care about. The people who care about us. Sports can make that circle a little bigger, if only for a moment.

It’s the little things that count.


Contact Samantha Zuba at szuba@nd.edu
The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those
of The Observer.