Sports are the last great live spectacle. Going to see a concert or a play has its place, there are no other events that we can watch with unknown outcomes, that is the beauty of sports. We watch because there are new storylines every single night and we can find common ground with complete strangers over our favorite teams and players. I also think that sports serve as a diversion to many. Sports are an escape from the real world issues that trouble us – money, career, weight, injury or grief.
Occasionally our issues enter the sports world in a very relatable way. Today – September 25th, 2016 – was an unbelievable day and one that needs to be written about. In the same day, Major League Baseball began to mourn the loss of budding Miami Marlins star, 24 year old, Jose Fernandez and golf legend Arnold Palmer passed away at age 87. Those headlines may be what most people remember about this day, I think that it is important to identify the beauty that sports provided on this day as well.
Tributes to Jose Fernandez were at each and every MLB stadium today. The Tampa Bay Rays cancelled their ceremony to honor the career of David Ortiz at the request of Ortiz himself in order to pay respect to his close friend with a moment of silence. In the video, Ortiz sheds several tears during the 90 second homage to Fernandez. Later in the game, Ortiz hit the game winning double in the 10th inning to give Boston their 11th consecutive win and tie the Texas Rangers for the best record in the American League with a week of baseball left to play.
Across the country, the Los Angeles Dodgers gave Vin Scully a dramatic victory for his final call. Former first-round draft pick and present journeyman infielder, Charlie Culberson, hit his first home run in the Major Leagues since 2014 to give the Dodgers a walk-off victory in the 10th inning and clinch their fourth consecutive division title. After the game Scully briefly addressed the crowd (video) and then the Dodgers played a rendition of Scully singing “Wind Beneath My Wings” that caused grown men and women to cry showing the reciprocated love between Scully and Dodger fans.
Flipping over to golf, the thrilling victory of Rory McElroy defeating Ryan Moore after playing four sudden death playoff holes in one of the most dramatic finishes to a tournament in recent memory. McElroy won both the tournament and also the FedEx Cup, an afternoon round that netted McElroy $11,500,000. While it was a big payday for Rory McElroy, the 54-hole leader, Dustin Johnson ended up shooting the highest score of any golfer on course this day and ultimately lost the FedEx Cup due to McElroy’s victory. This outcome resulted in Johnson’s payday being reduced by $7M. Johnson’s collapse paired with the intestinal fortitude shown by McElroy on the playoff holes reminded America of how compelling golf can be in an era where the sport is searching for its defining talent.
I decided to write this today because I am reminded of the talented friend that passed away far too early. I am thinking about the friends and family members who gave back to many during their lifetime and left the world a better place. It’s an emotional day for me and I am sure many others too. Consider how emotion and/or desire fueled today’s top sports storylines and be reminded of why sports are so important to American culture at a time where we can't seem to agree about much.