Over my years as both a journalist and student journalist, I’ve often been asked why I chose to pursue a career as a sports reporter/editor.
Growing up, I distinctly remember starting my grade-school days with a big bowl of cereal and a thorough read of the sports pages of the Calgary Herald. I could list off to you the NHL’s top scorers on a day-by-day basis. It was a part of my routine and, though I didn’t realize it at the time, a big part of why I do what I do today.
But a love for sports wasn’t the most significant reason for my career pursuits.
In fact, before I arrived at the sports pages, I always did a quick scan of the national and local news sections, as well as the entertainment section of the paper. As a youngster, I was always shocked and confused by the amount of negative and violent news that appeared throughout the pages of the paper.
Wednesday morning provided me with an all-too-real display of why I choose to report on sports, rather than politics, civil matters or community news.
Wednesday morning, a young man lost his life while serving his country right here at home in the nation’s capital. My deepest thoughts and condolences go out to the family of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.
On days like today, many might be of the opinion that sports don’t matter. And how could I argue that? A brave, young man lost his life. A country was left feeling vulnerable and scared for what its future might hold. How could anything outside of Wednesday’s tragedy truly be of any importance?
The NHL recognized the severity of a tragedy of this magnitude, postponing a scheduled contest between the Toronto Maple Leafs and host Ottawa Senators. As great a distraction as sports can be, in times like these, we are better to spend time with those we love, being thankful for what we have while recognizing that life is fragile and can change in a moment. A distraction is not what we need on a day like today.
But in the same moment, we see why sports do matter during days like today.
In a great display of camaraderie, the Pittsburgh Penguins splashed the ice surface at CONSOL Energy Centre with red maple leaves. Prior to puck drop with the Philadelphia Flyers, the Canadian national anthem was performed in a show of solidarity for Pittsburgh’s northern neighbours here in Canada. With two American teams facing off, the Canadian national anthem is typically not a part of opening festivities in the National Hockey League.
In a show of support and community, the Saskatoon Blades honoured meningitis survivor Tim Bozon prior to Wednesday’s WHL regular season game with the Kootenay Ice. Again, proof that regardless of the level of competition, community and camaraderie exist within the world of sport when times get tough.
The Penguins and Blades displays are beautiful examples of how sport can provide strength for us in times of struggle and adversity, regardless of rivalry and competition.
While many question the importance of sports relative to the rest of the world, I always argued the necessity of sports pages for this reason.
Sure, who wins tonight’s tilt between the Kootenay Ice and the Saskatoon Blades isn’t going to change the way we view our society. Cranbrook won’t go to war with Saskatoon because the Blades edged the Ice. World peace won’t be had because the Kansas City Royals knotted up the World Series with the Giants.
While most days, I would distract myself from the realities of a violent world by reading the box score of last night’s game, today, my only look to the world of sports will be for strength and reassurance that society can band together during times of difficulty.
The next time you flip to the sports pages and wonder why they’re there, just remember the world of sport provides strength and reassurance regularly. Most importantly, it provides strength and reassurance on days like today.