Breakfast With Bernie

The Power of Sports in Society

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November 29, 2016

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It’s easy to see the impact of sports on local communities, especially in today’s news. The media shows Lebron James in the box suites cheering on the Cleveland Indians during their rally to the World Series, and Kobe Bryant sitting courtside for the Los Angeles Sparks’ playoff trek to the WNBA finals.

But too often the focus is on just the famous athletes – what they’re wearing or who they’re with. Not enough emphasis is placed on the sacrifice and hard work it takes to succeed in sports or the impact sports has on individuals and the community.

Sport has the ability to be one of the single most unifying forces in the world. So, what is the power of sport?

Just watch the Boston Bruin’s National Anthem following the Boston Marathon Bombings.

Or Big Papi’s speech after those same Terrorist Bombings.

Consider one of the many stories I heard our Founder and Chairman, Bernie Mullin, tell our staff when he returned from the Sport at the Service of Humanity Conference at the Vatican in Rome, Italy – about a young boy who hid in a tree during the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. He watched both of his parents and many others slaughtered by revolutionary armies wielding machetes. This young boy was traumatized, not wanting to believe what he had seen with his own eyes. He didn’t drink or eat for three days – he just sat up in the tree, wetting and soiling himself while not moving.

Doctors tried to talk him down for days. A psychiatrist was tasked with getting him down from the tree, and still, after multiple attempts, he was unsuccessful. Finally, the psychiatrist gathered a group of young children around the boy’s age and led them to play soccer right under the tree where the boy had taken refuge. Within minutes the boy came down to join in the game, because to him, it was a sign that life could go on.

Sport has the unique power to change individual’s lives, the lives of family members and ability to positively impact the world. It should be the truest forum for demonstration of all that can be and is good with the human spirit.

The rules of sports are exactly the same universally for every country in the world. Until the game is actually played, no one knows the outcome. Think about the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament (“March Madness”) and the wonderful “David beats Goliath” stories we see and hear every year. We know those aren’t scripted.

Sport has the uncanny ability to give hope to fans. How about the Cleveland Indian fans (with their 68-year Championship drought) making it all the way to the World Series, and the Chicago Cubs ending an even longer 108-year drought (Congrats on the win!)? An entire nation can go “nuts” with a victory in the World Cup Final or a Gold Medal podium visit during the Olympics by an athlete from their home country, instantly evoking a feeling of immense national pride.

With all the challenges and issues currently facing society, it is timely and necessary for us to wake up to the massive power for good that sports can provide to us individually, or on a broader scale through the community, society, and the world. As Bernie said in the article, “Restoring the Faith in Faith Using Sport” – Start with yourself, then your loved ones, friends and associates and spread the message of Faith in Humanity and Faith in the Power of Sports.

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