Gimme Shelter: Finding Solace in Sports When the World Shows its Ugly Side

I gotta tell you, faithful reader, I’m scared. I spent the morning in a state of muted shock after hearing the news that a reporter and her cameraman had been gunned down in Virginia while filming a live segment. By a disgruntled former co-worker. Who then uploaded to Twitter the video he had taken of the murders. Then I heard about an incident right here in my own hometown of Indianapolis in which man had stabbed a woman and jacked her car. And drove through downtown running over pedestrians.

What the hell is wrong with people?

I can’t fathom the depths of evil lying beneath such shallow regard for humanity, I just can’t. And that’s what scares me the most. I can understand how like-minded people think because, well, they think like I do. But I have to send my kids out into a world populated — however sparsely — by people whose warped views and/or sociopathy may lead them to carry out the unimaginable. So I apologize for being less than my best at work today, but I was shook. Shaken, whatever.

It probably doesn’t help that I’d been on edge for several hours prior to hearing about these acts of terror — make no mistake, that’s exactly what I consider the events of Wednesday morning to be. They may not have been state-sponsored acts, but you tell me what you’d call the results of the shooting or the carjacking other than “terror.” But as I said, I was already feeling off after a few moments of pretty legitimate fear of my own last night.

I had just gotten home from a meeting and was looking forward to catching the Cubs game on TV after listening to the first inning on the radio during my commute. First things first, I had to make a quick trip to the loo, which is where I first noticed the smell of gas. No, not that kind of gas, but the distinct sulfurous odor of the additive in LP and natural gas that clues you in to its presence in the air.

Our gas appliances are out in the garage, so I opened the door to check there and the smell was much stronger. At that point, my wife and I quickly opened the doors and windows downstairs, grabbed the kids, and got out of the house. Once we were a good distance away, my wife dialed 911 and our heart rates began to level off. Come to find out, the gas company had simply added way too much of the odorant that gives normally scent-free natural gas its smell.

I don’t care how many assurances you get though, it’s hard not to be on guard when your family and kids are involved. I always thought I was a pretty laid-back guy who just allowed the worries of the world to sort of roll off his back. But as I get older, I’m learning more and more that I’m not really letting things go after all. Rather, I’m sitting beneath the Sword of Damocles while each new event makes a tiny little nick in the cable suspending the sword above my head.

It crashed down on me today though, man. I mean, this news just hit me hard. Thankfully, I have been able to turn to both sports and writing to find solace from the horrors of the world. Yes, it’s possible that we take these games too seriously at times, but when the rest of the world gets too serious to bear, it’s sure nice to have something that provides a little reprieve. In sports, particularly writing about them, I can climb out of my own head and walk around for a while without care.

I mean, sure, I might be yelling at a guy to pick up his base coach coming around 2nd or to lay off the slider in the dirt, but those are nothing compared to the reality that sometimes makes you want to curl up in a ball and wave the white flag. When that white flag has a big blue W on it, though, you can maybe let some of that emotional baggage go for a bit.

And you know what’s really cool? As much as having children magnifies my fears of a world gone mad, it also increases the joy I’m able to take in my teams. When my son can’t stay up and watch the Cubs, we can sit together for a few moments before he leaves for school and watch highlights. My daughter, who just turned 9 today, is a little more manipulative when it comes to watching games with her old man. If she doesn’t want to go to bed yet, she knows all she’s got to do is ask to sit with me and watch the Cubs/Bears/Hoosiers.

As I was typing out an earlier post about the Cubs’ win in San Francisco and their recent run of success, it really struck me that my kids may be the first generation in nearly a century to grow up with a Cubs team that is expected to compete for titles on a consistent basis. That was a pretty cool thought, and one that I hadn’t really had before. I was indoctrinated by the success of the ’84 team, but there was really nothing sustained about that squad. Likewise, the ’03 team never did much else and the most recent playoff teams were swept away quickly.

Real life is a lot bigger than sports, but I’d like to think that just as I find solace in them, others might occasionally be able to find the same in something I say or write. That’s not to assign greater significance to my words than they deserve, only to define for you my goals for myself when it comes to this little hobby. If I can make someone smile or laugh or maybe just forget about some of their problems, even for just a fleeting moment, I’ve done my job.

Thank you, dear reader, for indulging me yet again. More Cubs next time.

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