Once again it is time for everyone in our great country to pause and give thanks for what we have. As in the past, I will give thanks for sports-related events/people first, and end with a personal note of thanks.
We spend most of the year complaining about everything from bad coaches to performance-enhanced players to bad officials’ calls…but I think it’s important to keep sports in perspective and remember that we watch the games and root so passionately just for the sheer FUN of it. In the scheme of things, sports mean nothing, as I’ve said before they are the ‘toy department’ of life and while I take them as seriously as the next guy, I think it’s important to occasionally step back and put everything in perspective. So, here are a few of the things I’m thankful for in the world of sports in 2013:
-In Western PA, 2013 was a time to be thankful for the Pirates. After 20 years of heartache and losing every which way possible, the Bucs FINALLY had a winning season – and more, defeating the Reds in the Wild Card game and taking the NL champion Cardinals to the absolute brink before falling in five games. Pittsburgh ended up with the NL Manager of the Year, the NL MVP, and second place for GM Neal Huntingdon as Executive of the Year (I think he should have won). Many savvy trades and signings (Burnett, Martin, Melancon, Grilli, and especially Liriano) combined with some good internally developed players (McCutchen, Marte, Alvarez, Cole) created a team that will be revered forever among Pirate die-hards. Next year could be a different story, but in 2013, the Pirates were THE story in the Steel City.
-Sticking with baseball, I’m thankful for 20 years (and counting) of labor peace. In an era when every other major sport has had work stoppages of varying lengths, baseball’s owners and players have figured out the simple truth: there’s more to gain from cooperating than from fighting. Could things be better? Sure…the gap between the haves and have-nots is still a little large, and the steroid problem refuses to go away quietly…but the expanded playoffs have been a great equalizer for ‘small market’ teams, and most teams now go into spring training with legitimate thoughts of playoff contention. Add in the plethora of stars in the game today, both on the mound and at bat, as well as the plentiful access to games via TV or online…and it’s a GREAT time to be a baseball fan!
-I touched on this last year but I think it bears another mention – I’m VERY thankful for the increased concussion awareness at ALL levels of sports. High school coaches in PA now have to complete mandatory concussion awareness training, there are plentiful columns on the subject, especially from football writers, and I think the general feeling among parents, players, AND coaches is that this problem needs to be addressed and addressed NOW for the good of the players…and the good of the game. There’s still work to be done, but the sports world is clearly better, thanks to the work that has already been done to combat this problem.
-Finally, I’m thankful for hockey and the bond it has created with my sons. I wrote about my oldest son’s Marine graduation last year, and all the struggles he had to overcome – he was dealt a more severe blow, as most of you know he was in a serious car accident in March. The last thing we did together before that crash was attend a Pens game, and we had a great time. Also, one of the first things he said when he regained the ability to speak was ‘I miss hockey’. As he recovers, hockey is something he looks forward to, both watching and eventually playing again. His younger brothers also enjoy watching hockey and it’s become a good ‘family bonding’ event for us.
Sports may be the ‘toy department’ of life…but I’m more convinced than ever that they can play a vital role in helping people overcome adversity – by giving them something to think about besides their struggles, something to bring them together with others, and memories that they can enjoy the rest of their lives. I hope that your love of sports can be as meaningful for you and yours as it has been for me and my family in 2013.
I wish you all the best of everything this Thanksgiving – enjoy the food, fellowship, and most of all your families.
Dave Glass can be reached at email@example.com.