The Healing Power of Sports
NY Mets, Citifield

Many are still chomping at the bit to experience the action of live sports.

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.” – Terence Mann, Field of Dreams

Fans are, indeed, returning.

Many are still chomping at the bit to experience the action of live sports.

While sports consumption has been available through television, fans are slowly trickling back through the turnstiles. Even for those who are still just watching from their couches, it makes a big difference to see people in the stands as opposed to cardboard cutouts!

However, the New York Mets may want to petition to go back to no fans as, other than Jacob deGrom, the team, including their new $341 million shortstop Francisco Lindor, are being roundly booed. Bottom line: when you stink in New York, you get booed! And right now, and I cannot emphasize this enough—other than deGrom—they stink! The Yankees started off slow as well, and that is not an uncommon early season report for the Bronx Bombers, which reminds us all that, as they say (ad nauseam), this is a marathon, not a sprint.

OK, enough venting. Going to try to take the long view.

But as we gear up for another playoff run in the NHL and the NBA, the Kentucky Derby and NFL Draft all returning to “semi-normal,” I have a request for our sports world:

HELP US HEAL!

It is still a very difficult and crazy time for a lot of people. We are continuing to deal with a new world order with the ongoing pandemic; controversy about what to do and what not to do, masks, vaccines, new strains, reduction in attendance at venues across the land, living through a two-dimensional screen for meetings and family gatherings….

Enough!

We are coming off a very heated political year and the ramifications of a country divided. We are seeing more hate crimes and crimes against humanity—because they do not think, act or look like us! We are seeing “the greatest city in the world,” struggle as it deals with all the above. I love New York City and since my youth have felt compelled to root for the hometown teams because I felt it was my duty as a New Yorker. Now it’s as much a part of my DNA as my slow metabolism! I cannot change, although after 50+ years of rooting for the Mets, Jets, Knicks, and Islanders I have dreamt of that possibility! Seriously, though, I have a daughter who lives in Manhattan and I fear for her safety.

There are no easy answers, but we need outlets of release and crowds of cheering fans. It always helps when our sports teams are competitive—competing for or challenging for championships. Or even as with the Knicks this season, just being competitive and LIKEABLE!

Sports are used as an outlet where people share their passions, their athletic abilities and talents. It is a release from life’s trials and tribulations. A full year plus of COVID-19 and all the sadness that came with it, the political division we’ve encountered and the serious social justice issues we face, make sports even more important as an agent for healing. Sports have always been a conduit to philanthropic issues, and I say let us take a closer look at that! There is tremendous philanthropy and good will in the sports world! Personally, though, I would like to see politics kept out of sports.

Sports has always helped take the edge off our everyday worries.  Think of Jesse Owens in the “Hitler” Olympics, the wonderful ladies that spawned the movie A League of their Own (yes, that is based on reality) and ever since I have been alive; through the Vietnam War, assassinations, natural and man-made disasters, sports have been an outlet, a healer, a conduit to hope! Remember the Miracle Mets or what the Saints Super Bowl win meant to the city of New Orleans after Katrina?

Fans want to root, and cheer and be entertained. They do not want to be reminded about the horrors and injustices in the world when they come to games to escape from them. It is frustrating to see the two worlds collide. Yes, I believe athletes should have a voice, that they should take a stand for what they believe in, but just as the opposite is true, fans do not want to be hit over the head with it when they take a couple hours out of their day to enjoy a sporting event, to forget about their debts, or the world falling apart around them.

God knows, our friends in Hollywood have specific opinions and beliefs and they are vocal about them, as is their right. But when you go to the movies to watch them entertain you, you are not hit over the head with their opinion during the movie. You get to watch the film and enjoy (or pan) it. If you want to understand what their political aspirations are, or their thoughts about social justice, or other platforms, you can go to their social media pages.

I know there are difficult issues across the land (and world) that need addressing but we look to sports, whether it is high school or college athletics or professionals, as a release! A release where we can sit for two to three hours and just forget some of those things.

So, let’s get back to full stadiums where we can come together to cheer or jeer our favorite athletes, enjoy a beer and a hot dog and go home feeling better about everything. This in turn will help us keep our attitudes positive and our charities flush.

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