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Significance of sport

Tom Dorwart | Monday, September 5, 2005

In the aftermath of the deadly hurricane Katrina, insignificant as it may sound, I thought about sports.

I sat in my sports-adorned dorm room ready to sign up for interhall sports, eager to take a road trip to Ann Arbor for a football game and excited to experience another Irish home game.

Less than a week after perhaps the most catastrophic event in United States history, I – along with the rest of Notre Dame – cheered on the Irish to victory over Pitt.

And I wondered – should we feel guilty for having fun, eating pizza and caring so much about sports?

I thought about the meaning and importance of sports, the reason we still watch Sportscenter or play two-hand-touch football on the quad.

Then, I realized, we need sports. Sports still matter.

Last week’s chaos put a new perspective on sports – on life, itself, for that matter – much in the same way 9/11 and the tsunami in Asia did. We should reflect on the tragedy – pray for the victims and those helping with relief efforts and donate money at our dorm Masses, home football games and other events. It seems, even hundreds of miles away from the stricken area, that enough can’t be done.

Still, sports matter.

More than ever, Louisianans will be New Orleans Saints fans – they will show their resolve and passion if, somehow, their shaken Saints win their season opener this week. No doubt, the people without a town will take pride in their teams. They don’t have homes, but they’ll watch – if they can – Southern Mississippi take on Alabama, LSU battle Arizona State and Tulane face Mississippi State this weekend and next.

“We need this season,” Tulane quarterback Lester Ricard said in an espn.com article. “I think that will be the ultimate joy, to see us do well this season.”

To Tulane president Scott Cowen, “doing well,” at this point, goes beyond winning. Wins would be a mere bonus.

“We want our athletes to carry the torch, face and name of Tulane University during this difficult time,” Cowen said.

It’s quite the undertaking, but the athletes are more than willing to accept it.

“It’s something that we want to do for New Orleans,” Green Wave linebacker Antonio Mason said. “A lot of people look at us as not only reps of Tulane, but of New Orleans. People can look at us and say, ‘Wow, look at that team; they’re going on the road, going through all that adversity, and still getting the job done.'”

Tulane coach Chris Scelfo called the country to “rally” behind New Orleans, saying while his players are worried about missing family members, the “game will be, not so much competition, but a release, a distraction.”

So, don’t feel guilty for playing catch on the quad or watching the Irish this weekend. Coaches always say sports teach players and fans about life, about teamwork and about working towards a goal. Now, in the midst of tragedy, sports seem like more than that. They are the very “release” which helps us through challenging times.

When the world seems, as it did last Monday, like it’s about to come to a halt, the sports world keeps spinning – as it should.