Sports news put into perspective

Alonso Tacanga

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Sometimes one realizes that nothing in this section matters all that much. Days like Sept. 12, in which a CSUN student took a trip that she’ll never return from, can sure do that to you.

Allow me to backtrack a bit in time, two days before the tragic date, for the sake of illustration.

If you know anything about soccer, you know that Argentina is big-time. They’re to soccer what USC is to college football. Now, if you know just a little more about the king sport, you know that Peru is, in South America, as big-time as the Memphis Grizzlies are in the NBA. That’s reality.

Now picture this. Just try it: Peru is hosting Argentina and is inexplicably playing better than the country that gave birth to Diego Maradona. They look like they’re about to break a 23-year drought of victories against the giant, but then, in the 81st minute, reality settles back in as the Olympic champions undeservingly score and take a 1-0 lead.

My Peruvian roots drove me to the ground at that moment. I couldn’t have been more disappointed. I dropped to my knees. I wanted to cry?

Two days after that game – two days after that feeling – I realized that I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did. It didn’t matter as much as I thought it did then. When you see news like what was shown on Friday, you become smarter. All of a sudden, you know your priorities.

Friday afternoon, a Metrolink commuter train collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train in the city of Chatsworth, right in CSUN’s backyard. The result of the tragedy has so far been 25 deaths and 135 injuries. Sadly, a CSUN sociology student, Aida Magdaleno, was one of the 25.

It sounds so cold to just give out numbers without knowing the actual faces of these victims; the actual feelings of those who were in that train and saw people die in their own failed rescue attempts; the actual mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends and relatives of those who now will only live in their hearts.

It’s so cold.

Who cares about a soccer game? And it’s not only about the insignificance of that small team in the world of sports, but it’s about what sports really means in our lives. What did it matter if the underdog got screwed despite deserving better? What did it matter that true fans’ hearts were breaking in some areas of the Andes? Did it matter then that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had clinched a playoff spot just two days ago? Did it matter then that the city of Cleveland was mad at Lebron James for rooting for any sports team as long as they have nothing to do with the city that employs him?

As you can see, we could go on for a while with the ‘Did it matter?’ questions. It’s all meant to illustrate a point that some, but not all, have grasped in these last few days: When it comes to what’s important, we sports fans need to realize that we don’t know what that’ really is. We overvalue the work of strangers. We become interested in their misdoings. All we want to see is smack talk. That’s our main topic of conversation.

Yes, in a way, I’m bashing my own section. I know. But it’s worth it if I reach the minds of some crazed sports fans like myself. You see, I don’t know that we (from now on when I say ‘we’, I mean ‘we’ insane sports fans) realize that what took place was the worst train accident in Los Angeles in 30 years and that people we know could have been, or were, aboard that train. And even if no one we knew was there, these were and are human beings with families. It could have been one of us. It could have been our mothers in there. It could have been so many horrible thoughts, and we know it.

Why do I feel the need to write this? For one reason, a friend of mine, not at fault, disregarded the sad news with an all-too-typical ‘that sucks’ and then continued with the subjects that truly ‘mattered’ in his life. He said to me, ‘Did you hear Shaquille O’Neal is retiring in 750 days?’

Of course he meant 735 days, or 734 considering he informed me a day after the news had come out. The point is that it was disheartening to see what little importance he gave to the human losses. Is he a jerk? Surely. But he isn’t alone out there. We have a few more walking around. You may be one of them without realizing it. That’s just life.

ccidents happen everyday, just not to the lucky ones. We take it for granted. That’s many of us even if we think it’s not.

We scream like we won the lottery at the sight of Derek Fisher draining an impossible buzzer-beating shot in 0.4 seconds in the playoffs. We let out a sigh of relief as if we just avoided being run over by a truck as Fisher lands on Brent Barry’s head at the end of the game and the ref swallows the whistle. We get our hearts broken as if we’ll never again see our significant others at the realization that the Celtics indeed came back from 24 points down to take a commanding 3-1 NBA Finals lead.

All indeed remarkable moments to enjoy, feel lucky for and curse about respectively, but those reactions shouldn’t go with only those plays. You know what kind of play deserves a high jump and even a back flip? Yao Ming’s $2 million donation to Sichuan, a province of China, after an earthquake killed around 70,000 people, injured 375,000 and left five million homeless in May of this year. I’ll even give him an and-one for also starting a foundation dedicated to raise money to help rebuild the city.

Other players have also given away that kind of money before and those are the moments that need to be celebrated with that type of joy. I’m just calling for awareness that there’s more to life. Even within sports, there are worthy headlines.

Yao’s gift is the kind of sports news that should dominate our morning chats. It’s the kind of news that deserves to be the talk of the week. But they aren’t and that’s okay. I realize that Shaq rapping about Kobe will always matter more than Kevin Garnett giving over $1 million to victims of Hurricane Katrina. That’s just how it is. Let’s just accept it, give it a thought and a minute of silence. That’s as far as it will ever get.

As it turned out, Peru went on to tie up Argentina in the 94th minute of the game in a play that will forever live in the humble team’s fans’ hearts. It happened last Wednesday. It was a fan’s dream of a finish. It was unforgettable.

That was until two days later, when awareness shook me, and hopefully many of you. The memorable goal took a backseat, just as it should. Newsworthy earned a new meaning in my personal dictionary.