More than a Game

Since the death of Jose Fernandez I have been trying to find a way to write an article about how massive of a loss Jose will be the sports universe.  He had all the talent in the world but more importantly he had all the joy in the world.  The stories continue to pour out from players around the league about how much he meant to the game.  I can’t imagine being a Marlins player last night in their first game since his passing, a game where he was scheduled to pitch no less.

But the strangest thing happened in the bottom of the first inning.  Dee Gordon came to the plate and honored his friend by wearing his helmet and mimicking his batting stance from the right side.  Dee, a lefty, took the first pitch as tribute then switched back to his normal side and helmet.  The very next pitch Dee Gordon hit the furthest ball of his career, an absolute bomb of a home run.  It was his first and most likely only homer of the season.  It was surreal, watching Gordon round the bases wearing #16 with tears coming down his face.  It was a moment I will never forget.

That moment furthers my belief that sports are so much more than just a game.  Sports do something that is so hard in times of need, they help us heal.  Sports provide us with an outlet, they show us that it is ok to move on.  Tragedies happen, which is a terrible thing, but for some reason there always seems be a simple game that unites us all.  One game can help us come together and show us everything is going to be ok.  Watching Dee Gordon cross home plate was so sad but at the same time I imagine Jose smiling, that infectious smile, looking down on his teammates.  It made me smile and had me thinking about all the other times sports played a larger role than just a game.


Below are some of the most memorable games where the score didn’t matter and something strange happened that can’t be explained much like the Gordon home run.

  Mike Piazza Home Run after 9/11

September 11th will be one of the darkest days in US history.  It was a tragedy that struck a nation, that changed a nation forever.  How could anyone decide when it was time to return to normal, let alone return to the ball park to cheer your team one.  Was it even safe?  MLB decided to play games again on Sept. 21, 2001 after 10 days off.  The Mets were playing at Shea Stadium vs the Braves and it game just felt empty.  That was until the 8th inning, the Mets were down 2-1 and Mike Piazza came to the plate and the sports universe did the rest.

Piazza home run to deep center field was so powerful for the city of New York.  It let the fans know it was time to cheer again.  No one will ever forget 9/11 but until Piazza went yard no one knew it was ok to smile again. Shea Stadium was brought to life again and for a slight moment so was NYC.

Side note: That year the Yankees went on the World Series and asked President Bush to throw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium.  This moment was perfectly told by ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts.  I can’t explain how Bush threw a perfect strike, another moment that goes down as its just sports.

Red Sox April 20, 2013

Marathon Monday is the best day in Boston all year, maybe of the best day in the US  As a New Yorker, it is a day I happily travel to Boston and enjoy everything about that city.  At least it is supposed to be, 2013 was different of course.  The tragic bombings at the marathon changed everything.  I was there right at mile marker 20, waiting for one of my best friends to run by.  He did so with great speed, thanks Brian! But several minutes after something went wrong.  I was one of the lucky one that was uninjured but it could of easily been not the case.  Thankfully I enjoy alcohol so i went inside to a bar less then a minute before the first explosion.  This joyous day turned a city upside down.

The Red Sox cancelled several game but on April 20th it was time to play ball game.  Before the game David Ortiz gave one of the best speeches ever by an athlete.  “This is our fucking city” became a rallying cry for the entire New England region.  The game itself had the “it” moment.  Again like Piazza in the bottom of the 8th inning, can’t make it up, Daniel Nava hit a 3 run homer run to put the Red Sox in front and secure the win.   The Red Sox went on to win the World Series, something that the city really needed.  That World series means so much in Boston.  I believe that one game on April 20th, that emotion from Big Papi and the fans won that World Series.

Side Note:  The Bruins season was also going on during this time.  The National Anthem before the first game back in Boston is truly something special.  If you aren’t moved by this then I don’t know what to tell you. The Bruins lost this game but the arena erupted 5 min in when David Palle scored the first goal for Boston.

Bo Kimble shoots free throw Left handed

Loyola Marymount may not be a powerhouse college basketball program but in 1990 they were one of the most fun teams to watch I’m told.  This was the beginning of the fast break offense we see all the time now in College basketball and the NBA.  Hank Gathers was the leading big man for Loyola and his best friend was Bo Kimble.  Tragedy hits the sports world on March 4, 1990 when Gathers suffered a heart diisorder on the court and died.  Literally dying on the court is heartbreaking, I can’t imagine what it was like to be on the court or how anyone ever stepped foot on any court after that game

In the first game of the NCAA tournament 12 days later, Bo honored his friend by shooting his first free throw lefty.  He was a little dig at Gather who struggled from the line but that is what best friends do.  Bo finally got to the line in the second half and shot the most perfect free throw of all time.  There is no reason for that shot to be so perfect expect for the fact you knew that he wasn’t missing that shot.  It goes down as one of the best moments in college basketball history.

Brett Favre Monday Night Game

Sometimes these unexplainable moments are focused on one players’ tragedy.  Brett Favre was extremely close to his father, this was not news to any one who followed the game of football.  On Sunday night, Dec.22, 2003, Brett’s father passed away.  Losing a parent is never an easy time no matter who old or sick they might be.  Going back to work hours after their death is crazy to most but for some it may be the only thing that can help in these hard times.

Brett is one of the greatest football ever so him having a big game isn’t shocking.  But if you watched that game you knew something was different.  In the first half alone, Favre threw for 311 yards and 3 touchdowns.  You were able to see it in his face as he tried to hold back tears several times, this was for his father.  This game goes down as one of the best games in Favre’s historic career.  He gave a pre game speech telling the team this is the only way he knew to honor his father.  Under the lights of Monday Night Football, you could not written a Hollywood script better than this.

 Marty St. Louis Playoff Goal

St. Louis wasn’t a lifelong Ranger but finished his amazing career in NYC.  In 2014, his mother unexpectedly passed away the day before game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semi Finals.  Like Favre, he knew his mother would of wanted him to play.  The Rangers won the game but the real story comes in game 6 at MSG. This game was on a Sunday but not just any other Sunday, it was Mother’s Day.

4 min into the game Marty did it, he scores the first goal of the game for his mother.  It is a amazing scene at MSG as teammates mob their eldest player.  The goal was so important to the Rangers season but the players knew that it meant even more to Marty.


Sorry for all the videos, did someone cut some onions in here??

These are just a few examples I could think of that show that a simple game can mean so much more to those playing and to those watching.  Unfortunately there will be more stories like this because the world sometimes is just not fair. Those that are lost will never be forgotten but the power of sports will be there to help you remember them and to let you know it is ok to move on.

Please share any other stories I might of missed in the comments.


Also published on Medium.

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