My love for sports from such a young age made it extremely difficult for me to understand how someone else failed to see the same beauty in it. It really wasn’t until getting to Drake that I finally understood. It was seeing the way that my friends and peers were drawn toward the arts, or politics, or even video games. You could just see the constant passion in their daily lives, for whatever it may have been.
But see, that’s the funny thing about people and their hobbies, the subjects that they’re drawn to, or what happens to catch their interest. For even just a short while, they are distracted from all of the negative that this world can offer. They may not need to think about the racism in the U.S. or the struggle for peace in Columbia. They may not need to think about the speeding ticket yesterday or the graduate school that they were denied from. They can get lost in the beauty of an El Clasico football match. They can immerse themselves in a Broadway performance. They can drown their sorrows in the musical genius that was and always will be, the late Prince. That is what truly is so great about where people’s passions lie. It doesn’t matter what it is or why they love it; they just do. Some find their passions later in life, but some find their love at a very young age. I was the latter.
While baseball was my first love, it opened up the world of sports for me which truly changed my life. I was having a conversation with a friend recently about sports vs. musicals and shows, and in the end we agreed to disagree because we just couldn’t understand the other side. It wasn’t until the last couple of days that I realized…we didn’t need to. Nothing made their view better or worse than mine, all that mattered was the passion and emotion that we felt about our respective interests because that passion is what can move mountains.
For sports fans, we will never forget the way the entire city of New York rallied around the game of baseball following the attacks on 9/11. It didn’t matter if you repped the Bronx or Queens, that gave the city something to postpone even the smallest bit of pain. We will never forget watching two greats, Michael Jordan and Brett Favre, break down in the aftermath of their fathers passing away, but not before shocking the audience with their performances. Football fans may never forget the way Didier Drogba used his platform as a world famous athlete to end the civil war in The Ivory Coast and bring peace to his home. Sports offer a way to bring people together the way that not many things can and can turn full-grown adults into emotional shells of themselves at the drop of a hat. That is why these past few days have been weighing so heavily on me.
Getting the notification about Jose Fernandez truly shook me, not because he was a favorite of mine or because I like the Marlins. It shook me because, at 24 years old, the young man was less than two months older than me and because I had just witnessed him, alive and well, pitch in Chicago on August 2nd. It got to me because he had just recently announced he had a child on the way with his lovely wife. It shook not only me, but so many others.
Yet, in the midst of so much heartbreak in Miami, in comes Dee Gordon. The man who very easily was hurting the most in that clubhouse. The man who was one of the closest, if not the closest teammate to the late all-star. It was clear in the day and a half following the accident that Dee was grieving and hurting as hard as anyone who had even known Jose. So as the left-handed speedster walked up to the plate to lead off for the Marlins wearing Fernandez’s helmet, thousands of solemn fans in attendance and millions watching from home were hoping and praying for something, anything, to ease their pain. Not only did Gordon take the first pitch from the right side of the batter’s box to honor his late teammate, he proceeded to hit the farthest home run of his life into the upper deck in right field 2 pitches later. Which, as Hollywood-esque as it may seem, was his first of the season in his 304th at-bat. Seeing him begin to break down as he passed second base and then completely lose it as he touched home plate is something that I will never forget. I won’t remember it solely because a young star tragically lost his life, but because it was obvious that Dee wasn’t alone while he was on that field, wearing “Fernandez 16” on his back. Neither was the rest of that team. DG, with one swing of the bat, reminded many here and from Jose’s home country of Cuba that his spirit will live on forever in this game, this city, and with these players.
There are truly an unlimited number of things in this world to find passion in and to lose your soul into. No matter your personality, there is always something out there and while I respect and understand each of those who see differently than me, I have never found anything that is as polarizing, as unifying, or as beautiful as the world of sports.
This is why we love sports.