A Game That Heals

Sports uplift people. It’s a fact.

After a natural disaster, a tragedy, or any other event that brings emotional pain to one’s life, sports always finds a way to soothe a victim’s emotional stress.

Don’t believe me? Ask a New Yorker who was at Shea for Mike Piazza’s home run 10 days after 9/11. Or ask Saints fans about the ecstasy that enraptured the hearts of every single person inside the Super Dome that night against the Falcons 13 months after Hurricane Katrina. Or ask any Mancunian how uplifted they felt after Manchester United’s 1968 European Cup title just 10 years after the Munich Air Disaster.

Considering the latter instances of tender sporting moments, I wanted to conduct a small experiment. I was interested to see what St. John’s basketball, arguably the University’s most prized asset, means to students, faculty and New Yorkers as a whole – especially those affected by Superstorm Sandy.

Unfortunately, after assessing in my head the potential answers I would receive, I decided against asking the question. The reason being because I suspected that I would be left lacking sincere answers.

I mean, it’s a difficult question to provide an answer to unless you’re a die-hard Red Storm basketball fan.

However, I wholeheartedly wished to be enlightened on whether or not St. John’s basketball is capable of affecting the hearts of New Yorkers affected by Sandy.

Then, as I was on the brink of chasing another topic to write about, I stumbled upon an article on the New York Times website that spotlighted a Japanese teenager whose father was killed during the tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011. The story delves into how the boy, who is a member of a basketball team, has dealt with the passing of his father.

Ryo, the boy’s name, explains how stepping onto the hardwood, playing the game he loves with his closest friends has helped him cope with the heartbreak that has been forced upon him. He even mentions how playing basketball helps him memorialize his dad, as his father was the person that introduced him to the game.

Ryo’s story assisted me in realizing that St. John’s basketball has the ability to help a Sandy victim mend an emotional wound, however big or small it may be.

When one watches or takes part in a sport, it’s similar to entering into an alternate universe. Nothing else seems to matter during a game except the task at hand. It’s one of the few instances in life when it’s acceptable to scream at the top of your lungs, unleashing however much emotion you wish to release from your body.

I truly believe that a 9 year-old boy who yelps in joy after watching Chris Obekpa swat a ball into the stands a-la Dikembe Mutombo will be freed to let loose a small amount of pain that was caused by his flooded home.

I also believe that the raising of the women’s basketball team’s Sweet 16 banner on Saturday can inspire that 35 year old man to volunteer at a shelter in Staten Island, totally overlooking the dreary prospect of repairing his damaged house that will cost him thousands of dollars.

Obviously, a basketball game isn’t capable of solving the problems of the thousands of people who were affected by Sandy, but I’m an optimist, and if a game can lighten the face of person whose life has forgotten what delight is, then, in my eyes, it’s worth a great deal.

So, because I know for a fact that the victories recorded by Joe Tartamella’s women and Steve Lavin’s men brought a dash of hope to a few lives, I’d like to thank the St. John’s men’s and women’s basketball teams. Thank you for what you’ve done for that homeless nine year-old, those group of Staten Islanders at that shelter and that family who’ve been eating military food for the past two weeks.