Tragedy: Looking Back while Looking Forward

As everyone who has access to any kind of media knows by now, the city of Boston suffered a great tragedy yesterday. As the injury toll continues to grow (from dozens to 40s to 80s to now a total of 176 injuries and two heartbreaking deaths), so does the outpouring of support and grief towards any victim, injured or otherwise, of such a senseless attack on a bastion of Bostonian tradition.

In times like this, where terror has been in the back of our minds in any similar situation since that September morning almost 12 years ago, emotions run high and nerves run short. Many people, including myself, use sports as a way to escape from those terrible situations, those horrible losses like those in Newtown a few months ago. The irresistible qualities of competition, sportsmanship, uncertainty and love of the game draw us into games going on, no matter what sport is being played. That couple hours of being a spectator and allowing yourself to focus on the entertainment of the players performing at the highest level allows us to block out the harsh, cruel reality that our world provides on a daily basis. But this attack, this invasion into the private world of sport that we so cherish, ruins that. There will be no Boston Marathon run for a long time that does not feel the stigma and wear the stain of the tragedy that happened on April 15. Instead of running for the cause of cancer or heart disease or personal pride or the various motivations that drive participants to put their bodies through a 26.2 mile journey, there will be countless people running in that marathon mourning the loss of their loved ones who cherished the race as much as those left behind will continue to do. That fact is inescapable.

When I started this blog a few weeks ago, I said to myself, “I’m so excited for this opportunity to spread my opinions about sports and to really open up discourse about things I know people care about.” And I will continue to do so for as long as anybody reading these posts will have me. However, I feel obligated to recognize the reality of the world outside sports as well and to put perspective on things that I see as I see them. I wish that situations like this never existed, that the countless stories of perseverance, athletic skill, and determination were the only storylines that the world would read about this annual tradition. But they do. It seems that nothing is sacred anymore. Not a simple flight from one city to another can take off without the loss of innocence and wonder at our technological advances because we have the cold, steely vise of security wrapped around the world of transportation. Massive celebrations of the pinnacles of sports achievement like the Super Bowl, the Final Four, and (highest of all) the Olympic Games are scrutinized and overseen with the focus of a hawk because of events like what happened in 1996 in Atlanta and at the 1972 games in Munich. It seems that the trust we place in the world as a child and a young adult gets broken earlier and earlier as the years progress.

For all those who are focused on “Who did this?”, you’re well within your right to ask that. Everyone wants to know who could have done these terrible things to innocent people, especially taking the life of an eight-year-old child. But please, I beg you, do not spew hate. Do not stereotype any group of people or jump to conclusions about potential perpetrators because of prior events. Mourn the lives lost and pray (or the equivalent for those not religiously affiliated) for those who were left behind and will be dealing with the aftereffects for a long time. Living with hate and malice in your heart does no good for yourself or anyone around you and doesn’t help to change the negative things you are so malicious against. Pray for a new and better tomorrow, one where these things don’t exist anymore.

Bonnie Ford, a Olympic sports writer for ESPN.com, penned an article on the tragedy yesterday. The final paragraph of that article really resounded with me and put perspective on how Boston and the country should try and recover from this act.

“Amateur marathoners push themselves for a whole host of reasons. To test their physical and psychological limits. To raise money for worthy causes. To compete. The next time this — or any — marathon is run anywhere in the world, they will run for yet another. To show that the power of communal achievement can be beaten on one day, but not on most days and never indefinitely. And that is what makes sense on a senseless day.”

Think about the journey that those runners went through before the blast, the time after the explosion, and the long hard road to recovery after the day was finished.

Again, I urge anyone reading to post your thoughts on the tragedy, my post on it, and any comments or concerns you may have. I welcome the discourse and any thoughts you’d like to share.

Bonnie Ford article (good read): http://espn.go.com/boston/story/_/id/9175969/endurance-sports-explosions-cut-core-boston-marathon

Charles Pierce article on Grantland (also recommended): http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9176985/boston-marathon-explosion

Spring is in the Air

Well, the cycle of sports is coming to a crossroads in the next few weeks. The maelstrom of March Madness ends on Monday, the NBA playoffs are fast approaching, the NHL’s regular season is about 10 games away from ending, and the NFL draft is the only football-related thing to really look forward to until August. (Wait, did I just say that out loud? Depression mode, engage.)

Some are looking at this upcoming stretch and thinking, “Great. Now all I get to see is baseball all freaking day. All the geezers will stay happy but I’ll be bored out of my mind.” But I’m here to tell you that this time is one of the best in sports and one of the most unique.

Due to the extended game of chicken between guys in suits this past fall, the NHL has turned in a truncated product that has been surprisingly entertaining. 48 games. That’s it. If you think hockey’s boring and “I can’t find the puck” and “This sport’s just for Canadians and weirdos in Minnesota”, you’re missing out. In case you’ve missed it so far, Chicago had the best run to start a season in NHL history (21-0-3), Anaheim and Pittsburgh have been so hot, their facilities crews are working overtime (the latter racking up 15 consecutive wins), and teams like Columbus, Edmonton, and Winnipeg have surprised everyone by being right there in the hunt for a previously unheard-of playoff spot. If you’re a sports fan and storylines like that don’t interest you, you seriously need to find a pulse. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that Commish Dave Bettman planned the whole thing to make a more interesting season. Wait….

The NBA playoffs are coming up too and are as good as ever. Although my Cavaliers are in the eternal struggle, having dropped 10 straight to fall to 22-52, the teams that do have hope for the second season are reaching the homestretch. All roads that lead to a title will inevitably wind through the sunny (and oft-bandwagon traveled) streets of South Beach, Florida and American Airlines Arena. Any team out there that thinks they can beat Miami not once, but 4 times, more power to you. LeBron unbelievably seems to be still on the upper slope of his career trajectory (as much as the bile rising from my stomach seems to disagree) and doesn’t show any signs of stopping. The question that everyone is asking going into these playoffs isn’t “Who’s going to win the NBA title?” but rather, “Can anybody in the league beat Miami?”

That kind of perspective is something that we as sports fans haven’t asked about a team since the Kobe/Shaq Lakers threepeat of 2000-2002 and more notably Jordan’s Bulls. But let’s go down the list of contenders, starting with their Eastern Conference brethren:

  • New York. (48-26) Although it seems they’ve raided the nursing home for roster members (6 players at 35 or older), their trey-happy and Mel0-centric style of basketball has led them to the second seed in the East. Though any reasonable NBA fan knows they may not be any kind of title favorite because of their streakiness, I definitely see them as the kind of team that puts a little scare into Miami or Indiana.
  • Speaking of Indiana (48-27), Frank Vogel’s defensively-savvy Pacers allow the second-fewest points in the league and have the highest rebounding margin in the league (+5.4 pg). They’re obviously not scared of Miami after their testy six-game series last year and aren’t afraid to fight with anyone.
  • San Antonio. (56-20) The second best record in the league for probably the most underrated franchise in sports. They’ve had 14(!) consecutive seasons of 50 or more wins. 14! Even though their core is aging, they’ve integrated young stars like Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, DeJuan Blair, and Danny Green into a powerhouse edition of a great franchise.
  • Oklahoma City. (55-20) Last year’s Western Conference champions are back, even without their third amigo, James Harden. The pain of losing to the Heat in last year’s Finals still resounds with this team that is tied for the league lead in scoring and outscores their opponents by almost 10 points per game (106.0-96.8). Scott Brooks has this squad on a mission to return to the Finals (presumably against Miami) and finish what they started last year.
  • Denver. (55-24) George Karl has this team flying high (See that? An altitude pun!) Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, JaVale McGee, and a surprisingly good Kosta Koufos have created a seriously entertaining product. The loss of Danilo Gallinari to a torn ACL is concerning, though. His shooting and athleticism was key to the success of the Nuggets this year and his absence may be the factor that stops them from reaching the promised land just yet.
  • The Clippers. (50-26). Lob City is resurgent and having a historic season, taking the franchise to unprecedented heights. Chris Paul, the league’s best point guard, has almost completely revolutionized this team and put them in the right direction. Pieces like Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Blake Grffin, and DeAndre Jordan are going to take this team to new heights. Maybe not championship heights just yet.
  • Golden Hou-phis. This amalgamation of the Warriors, Rockets, and Grizzlies are a trio of teams that know who they are (the first two being scoring factories that are lacking on the other end of the floor and the last having the opposite problem) and can put a scare into a higher seed. None of them will truly win four 4-of-7 series in a row but have enough talent to not get swept.

Well, this is my first real post. Any questions, concerns, debate topics, and hate mail can be directed to the comment portion of the blog. Hope you liked it and you’re a better sports fan for it.

-AG

(All stats can be found at ESPN.com)

First Post!

Well this is the beginning of something I hope will be really awesome. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Aaron Gross. I’m currently finishing up my junior year at Defiance College as a Sports Management major. Sports, especially broadcasting and journalism, is my passion and I love to debate and comment on sports at all levels. To prepare you for the content you’ll be reading, here’s a list of the teams I follow:

  • Ohio State Buckeyes Football
  • Cleveland Indians Baseball
  • Cleveland Cavaliers Basketball
  • Duke Blue Devils Basketball
  • Columbus Blue Jackets Hockey
  • Tottenham Hotspur Soccer (EPL)
  • Northwest Ohio HS Football and Basketball (NWC, GMC, WBL, NWOAL, etc.)

I’ll also try to post about current sports issues in general going on at the time (Mike Rice firing, etc.) to keep people updated. Much of the information I find to support my arguments can be found on sites like ESPN.com or SI.com and I will post links for anybody interested in learning more.

If there’s something any reader would like to have addressed or anything like that, feel free to say something to me about it, whether through comments on here or at my Facebook/Twitter pages. Any criticism and comments are welcomed and greatly appreciated. Thanks and here goes nothing!

-Aaron

P.S. Shoutout to the pride of the University of Evansville, Greg McCullough for the inspiration for the blog title.