Sports help in times of trouble

Commentary

There are times when talking about sports seems very small compared to the overwhelming things going on in the world. Over the last few weeks, millions of Americans have been impacted by devastating hurricanes in Texas and Florida. Lives and livelihoods, homes and so much more have been lost in the rushing waters and extreme winds.

Still, national sports know the show must go on; and so they did, with the NFL and NASCAR joining the coast-to-coast relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, even as Hurricane Irma was still bearing down on the Sunshine State.

The NFL is far from perfect, but one thing that the league certainly understands is the value of its impact on American culture and the power of its fan base to be a force for good.

As the league held a moment of silence for hurricane victims before this weekend’s games, the pictures from Houston were the most impactful. From first responders running onto the field to the thunderous welcome for defensive end J.J. Watt, who raised more than $31 million for storm relief, the game seemed to be part of the community’s healing process.

Ironically, the Texans were taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose own city would be flooded by Irma’s wrath in the hours following the season opener.

News of million-dollar donations for hurricane help came from multiple NFL teams; but beyond the money, pro players were reaching out to neighbors in their own communities. The Texans, for example, spent the days following Harvey helping at shelters and with clean-up efforts.

Many other sports, including college athletics, IndyCar and NASCAR announced fundraising efforts in the wake of the severe weather as well.

Campgrounds at Talladega and Atlanta Speedways were opened as temporary shelters for those escaping the Florida hurricane, complete with restroom and shower facilities, all free of charge. Several teams raced to create special aid-inspired paint schemes for this weekend’s run at Richmond, including Joey Logano’s American Red Cross car. Many teams announced significant donations to relief efforts.

Just as small towns in Pennsylvania come together for Friday night high school football, so do sports communities gather in big cities throughout the country, especially in tough times.

It seems fitting that this weekend’s sporting events helped to unite the nation in the wake of the horrible storm damage, as we prepared to mark the anniversary of 9/11.

After the terror attacks of 2001, sports from high school football to baseball’s World Series served as places for people to gather and create some small sense of normalcy in our world.

Sports are an undeniable part of the fabric of our society, and tragedies have proven athletics to be at their best, assuming the roles of good citizens and helping hands.

Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her

column appears on Tuesdays.

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