Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sports, Community, and Healing

During moments of incomprehensible loss, sports events can become powerful focal points for healing communities:

BLACKSBURG - On a perfect football afternoon at Virginia Tech, Lane Stadium sat empty.

But thousands of fans who had booked hotels with plans to attend Saturday's annual spring game kept their reservations. Even after the scrimmage was canceled following the deaths of 32 victims here, Hokie fans simply showed up to pay respects and show support.

There were overflow crowds at Virginia Tech's baseball and softball games, which went on as scheduled. There were passers-by who posed for pictures in front of the castle-like football stadium.

There was a single crew of tailgaters, refusing to stop doing what Hokies do, in a parking lot where there should have been hundreds of grills going and coolers crammed with cold ones.

In Pennsylvania, at one of the country's most storied stadiums, there was a stunning display of love for Virginia Tech.

This is not a tale of what people didn't do Saturday. It's a story of what they did. . . .

Solidarity and support has extended into all levels of intercollegiate sports, perhaps most notably at Penn State’s annual blue and white game:

UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State’s annual rite of spring – the Blue-White Game – became more a tribute to Virginia Tech’s Chicago maroon and burnt orange on Saturday.

Students spell out VT in colored T-shirts in the stands at the Blue-White Game to show their support for the victims of the mass shootings at Virginia Tech. Approximately 71,000 were on hand at Beaver Stadium to watch Penn State’s spring football game.

And Joe Paterno couldn’t have been prouder.

A large portion of the estimated 71,000 fans on hand at Beaver Stadium wore some form of Hokies’ school colors as a way of honoring the 32 victims of Monday’s tragic shootings on the Blacksburg, Va., campus.

“To see all these kids and all these people around campus,” Paterno said, his voice filling with emotion, “there’s something about intercollegiate athletics that’s special. You’re almost fascinated by it and proud to be a part of it.

“It’s a better world than we think it is.”


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