Friday night my colleague Brent Stecker and I walked into Town Toyota Center to cover the NCW Showcase. The Wenatchee and Eastmont girls and boys teams were slated to face off for the first time this season.
Under normal circumstances, this is about as good as it gets for prep sports writers, at least as far as the regular season is concerned. But I wasn’t thinking too much about possible story angles, what the game meant for each respective team’s season, or how the Panthers’ strong post play would match against the Wildcats’ talented backcourt.
Like most of the nation, my thoughts were fixed on the heartbreaking tragedy that left at least 27 dead and scarred the lives of countless survivors, family members and friends.
I couldn’t even begin to think about covering a game. It seemed so trivial and meaningless. I can only imagine how tough it must have been for the players and coaches.
But something amazing happened Friday night. The Wenatchee and Eastmont girls game tipped off, fans on each side cheered, and within minutes, my sunken spirit lifted as I watched a resilient Panthers girls team battle the heavily favored Wildcats tooth and nail and force overtime. It was a great game. One you could easily tell both teams wanted to win. Bad.
Without question, it was the best performance I’ve seen from Wenatchee this season (it was the first time I’d seen the Eastmont play in person).
The boys game followed shortly after. Another competitive game between two talented, but very different teams.
For a few hours, I was able to get lost in the game and forget about the terrible murders.
Later on, it dawned on me. Sports have an innate ability to heal us when we’re grieving. They offer a temporary escape from the hardships of daily life and the atrocities suffered in an unfair and sometimes senseless world.
No basketball game can undo the evils carried out in Connecticut on Friday. But it can give us a brief reprieve and allow us to escape and enjoy life, at least for a little bit.
To me, that is one of the greatest functions sports can serve our society.
When we’re reeling and lost, sports give us something to cheer for.