Sports a microcosm of real tragedies in life

Published 6:28 pm Saturday, July 22, 2017

One of the better sports movies ever made would be “Rudy,” the major underdog who rose up to finally play just one play for a major college football team, in this case Notre Dame.
Rudy was attending Holy Cross but he kept applying for admission to Notre Dame so that he could try out for the football team and achieve his lifelong dream of playing for the Fighting Irish.
Despite making good grades at Holy Cross, he was turned down several times by the Notre Dame admissions office. He complained to a priest who told him he had accomplished plenty. He was getting a good education and would get a degree. Rudy said if he didn’t get into Notre Dame his junior year he’d never get to try out for the football team.
The priest looked at him and said, “There are far greater tragedies in life.”
To me, that is one of the greatest lines in cinema history.
Recently, Allison Payne Rose died at the young age of 31. She was in my son’s class and I knew the family, especially parents Jim and Julie Payne. I played ball against Jimmy and most of my early association with him was through sports. Julie was in school at the same time as me.
I understand what they are experiencing emotionally. The hardest thing for a parent is to bury their child.
My mom — the greatest woman I’ve ever known — has buried two sons. Mark was just shy of his second birthday when he died more than 50 years ago. My brother Shawn was 52 when he died of cancer last October.
I was too little when Mark died to really understand. My mother had 10 other children but she said there was always a hole in her heart. Oddly, Mark and Shawn both died on the same day, Oct. 14.
Losing a loved one always hurts. Losing someone who is young seems to hurt more because we don’t think that it’s fair.
I really enjoy sports. I’m lucky to have a job that I love. But when Shawn died, nothing seemed the same. He left a wife and three young children. Cancer is the world’s bastard.
Sports are still fun even if the excitement isn’t the same. But I came to realize that it was okay. Life has laws such as the Ten Commandments and there are the rules of the Church as well as the government, but life doesn’t have any guarantees. It has its own rules. You can do your best and still get knocked down.
Our purpose in life is to love and obey God and help others get to heaven just as we work together as teammates to win a game.
Sports are a microcosm of life. It’s fun, exciting and uncertain but sports also has its sad and even tragic moments. We never really know how the game will end. Even if we play our best, we can still lose.
In sports, we can only control what we do. In life, God gave us a free will. We can do the right thing but if someone else decides to use their free will to do the wrong thing, something bad happens and we often ask, “how could God let this happen?” He didn’t. It was us.
My mom’s sister Mary Halligan had nine kids. Her son Gavin and a friend were visiting one day and rode their bikes back to their apartment. On the way home while on the bicycle trail, a drunk driver crossed into the other lane and then onto the bicycle trail. He ran over both boys and killed him. They were 19.
He ruined the lives of two young men, their families as well as his own life and family.
My daughter Rachel played volleyball for Rio Grande. One of the assistant coaches when she was in school recently died from cancer. She left behind two young daughters. But she had a great outlook through it all and before she died said, “Heaven is wonderful. It’s like Disneyland.”
And that’s what we have ahead of us. We see death as a tragedy because it’s sad for us. It’s only natural because we are human. We are losing a loved one but they are getting an eternal reward.
When my dad died a few years ago, my cousin Father Kevin Lutz gave the eulogy and he talked about heaven. He said, “When you get to heaven you won’t say, ‘this is nice but I’d rather be back in Ironton.’”
We have many sad moments in life, but we have so many good ones, too. It’s OK to get excited about a game, to attend a concert or enjoy a good meal. We need to understand that we should enjoy life and look forward to the real goal of heaven.
If we can do that, maybe we’ll join Rudy and get a better understanding of the real tragedies in life.
Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.

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