I can’t say I don’t understand the eye-rolling, the shrugs or the blank stares plastered across the faces of the utterly uninterested whenever the topic of popular sports comes up in conversation.
Try as they might, some people simply will never understand why right-minded, otherwise reasonable people allow themselves to get so worked up over a game, over recreation, over leisure.
The fate of the western world, they believe, surely does not rest on a single athletic contest or event.
And they’re right. Strictly speaking, the Dow won’t open 1,000 points down if the Milwaukee Bucks drop three of four on a West Coast swing in mid-February.
The Earth will continue to rotate rapidly on its axis. Life will go on.
But where sports are concerned, there is a greater social context to be considered and recognized.
And it’s this: For the better part of a century, sports have been our nation’s most resonant, profound and consistent source of hope.
Sometimes, it really is more than just a game.
Sports have and continue to produce moments that give us goosebumps, bring tears to our eyes and, most importantly, help us believe that, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, anything is possible.
These moments remain frozen in our minds as portraits of hope and courage and testaments to the enduring power of the human spirit.
Joe Louis knocking out Max Schmeling, The “Miracle on Ice,” Bo Kimble’s left-handed free throw, Lou Gehrig’s speech on July 4, 1939, Derek Redmond and his father crossing the finish line in Barcelona in 1992.
Add Chuck Pagano’s speech to his team Sunday to that list.
Few expected to see Pagano, head coach of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, in the team’s locker room following yet another improbable win.
But there he was.
Gone was his trademark goatee and most of his hair, casualties of Pagano’s ongoing fight with a treatable form of leukemia that forced the first-time NFL head coach off the sideline in September and into an Indianapolis cancer center.
As Pagano addressed his team — one few imagined would be a playoff contender but is now 5-3 and in the hunt for the AFC Wild Card — his eyes beamed while those of his players and the millions watching at home filled with tears.
“As I mentioned before the game, you guys are living a vision, not circumstances,” Pagano said. “Because you know where they (the media) had us in the beginning, every last one of them, but you refused to live in circumstances. ... I’ve got circumstances. I understand it. You understand it.
“It’s already beat.”
Doctors at Indiana University Health Simon Cancer Center announced Monday that Chuck Pagano is in remission.
How’s that for guts?
This week, in honor of Chuck Pagano and the power of sports to inspire us, this week’s playlist includes eight goosebump-inducing songs.
Keep fighting, Coach.
• U2, “Beautiful Day,” — A little cheesy but I think you’ll find that to be a recurring theme on this playlist.
• Lupe Fiasco, “The Show Goes On” — A song I listened to incessantly a year or so ago and one I love to this day.
• Arcade Fire, “Wake Up” — If the beginning of this song does nothing for you, check your pulse. You just might be dead.
• M83, “Outro” — As beautiful and sweeping a song as any released in the last decade. Stunning.
• Aerosmith, “Dream On” — It’s a classic for a reason.
• Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, “Falling Slowly” — A charming little song that packs a surprisingly profound punch.
• Neil Young, “Rocking in the Free World” — A classic fist-pumper. Nothing like it.
• Bill Conti, “Gonna Fly Now” — You had to have known this was coming.