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Fauber: The true power of sports

Brad Fauber

It seems that all too often a tragedy takes this country by storm, bringing with it that sense of shock and fear, grief and sadness that is beginning to become an all too familiar feeling in today's world.

We stay glued to our televisions, computers, smartphones -- whatever we can use to receive the most up-to-date information -- as we watch horrific image after horrific image get thrown in our direction. The world seems to stop.

But then something happens -- we begin to pick ourselves up, bit by bit, little by little. We begin to move on. We show some resiliency. We become unified as a nation.

I was just preparing to leave my house for work on Monday when I first heard of the situation at the Boston Marathon. The news coming through SportsCenter at the time was vague: two explosions erupted near the finish line and no further details were known.

By the time I arrived at work, two people were confirmed dead as a result of the blasts, and dozens more were wounded. As we know now, the death total would rise to three later that evening, and the number of wounded reached over 170 people. I couldn't believe that we as a nation were witnessing yet another heartbreaking tragedy.

But in true American fashion, the City of Boston was resilient, and its people began the slow climb back to some sense of normalcy. And they weren't alone.

The entire country banded together to show support for Boston. Even the sporting world -- as it so often does in a time of tragedy -- helped bring the country together.

Did you see the scene at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, where New York fans sang Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" -- considered the unofficial theme song for Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox -- during the third inning of a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks?

How about the scene in Cleveland that same evening, when the Red Sox hung a jersey in their dugout bearing the words "Boston Strong" and the number 617 -- Boston's area code -- to honor their city?

There was even the emotional National Anthem during the Bruins' home hockey match against the Sabres on Wednesday in the first major sporting event held in Boston since the bombing. Rene Rancourt began the Star Spangled Banner by singing the first line before the crowd joined together and finished the song. It was one of those feel-good moments that show the true power of sports.

This week, as well as various moments throughout history, has been filled with instances where the sporting world has provided a sense of unity and a chance to escape the sometimes harsh reality of life.

I was just a few weeks into my freshman year at Virginia Tech when the Hokies hosted East Carolina in the first football game at the school since the massacre that killed 32 people on April 16, 2007. I was in high school at the time of the shooting and was lucky enough to not have to experience that fear first-hand, but it still struck close to home.

ESPN's College Gameday was making a special trip to Blacksburg for that Sept. 1 game, as the contest was to signify the unofficial return to normalcy for the campus and the community. I stood in the crowd as Rece Davis, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit did their thing, and emotions ran high among those in attendance as ESPN, and the rest of the country, showed their support for HokieNation that day.

The on-field pregame ceremonies brought more tears, as everyone in the stadium honored our fallen Hokies. Then kickoff came, and for those next three hours we were just fans watching a football game. The true importance of that game was always in our hearts, but cheering on our team was a welcomed escape.

Sports are a funny thing. In the grand scheme of life, they really mean nothing. But at the same time, they can mean almost everything. Sports can be that one reprieve that you so desperately need, or that one thing that brings an uncommon group of people together and unites them under a single bond.

The true beauty and power of sports emerges during trying times, when the weight of a community, a school or a city rests on the shoulders of a group of athletes who are simply just playing a game. It's an amazing thing really, how something as simple as a game can lift the spirits of an entire country.

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com


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