Archive for Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Sorrentino: In times of crisis, sports can unite America

August 8, 2007

Last week's Interstate-35 West bridge collapse in Minneapolis was catastrophic.

Consider these facts: An estimated 60 cars plunged toward the Mississippi River on Aug. 1. The bridge carried an average of 141,000 vehicles per day. Initially, 30 people were reported to be trapped underwater in their vehicles.

Thankfully, that figure decreased to eight people missing on Saturday. Five deaths are currently attributed to the devastation.

Baseball temporarily diverted the attention of 31,664 sports fans who were present at the Metrodome for Friday night's Twins-Indians game.

I'm thankful for sports in America during times of domestic tragedies, such as the Minneapolis bridge collapsing. Sports unite Americans during these times.

Twins players displayed their respect by wearing I-35W emblems on their helmets Friday night. The Twins honored victims and rescuers with a video tribute before the game.

Friday night wasn't the first time sports recently provided a diversion from domestic tragedy.

Although it was considerably more tragic, I'll never forget the sports scene after 9/11, particularly in baseball. Chills run through my body every time I rewind the tape to see President George W. Bush throw the first pitch of the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium. At that moment on Oct. 31, 2001, citizens weren't classified as Yankees or Diamondbacks fans. There was no Republican or Democratic party. Chants of "USA," a sign that read "USA Fears Nobody: Play Ball" and waving flags throughout the stadium united our nation as Americans during the time of a deadly crisis.

More recently, Hurricane Katrina prevented the New Orleans Saints from playing a home game in the Louisiana Superdome for the entire 2005 season. After $185 million worth of renovations to the stadium, the Saints played their first home game in a year on Sept. 25, 2006, against the Atlanta Falcons. New Orleans defeated Atlanta, 23-3, and ended up winning the NFC South division.

I watched the Saints-Falcons game with great pride. Sports not existing in the Superdome was unfathomable to me. In 2003, I traveled to New Orleans for the NCAA Final Four, which was held in the Superdome. I remember being inside the mammoth building and marveling at the facility.

On a more local level, Lawrence was hit by a microburst on March 12, 2006. Winds hit as high as 76 miles per hour and damaged several homes, trees, buildings and cars. Kansas University suffered an estimated $6 million worth of damages at the campus.

I was a senior at KU at the time and lived near 12th and Indiana streets. Our apartment thankfully didn't suffer major damages. But I remember discussing the scary incident with my friends and classmates.

We received a diversion from the incident later that day when the Kansas basketball team won the Big 12 Conference Championship in Dallas. It seemed the Big 12 title meant so much more at the time because of the bond it created for Lawrence citizens affected by the microburst. My friends and I talked about the microburst all day. It was nice to just get away for two hours.

These disastrous events tell us that there's much more to be concerned about in the world than sports. But when these unexpected tragedies occur, it's nice to see that sports can unite the nation.

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