When Kevin Garnett walked over to Kevin McHale, embraced him, and let the man who drafted him cry on his shoulder, it showed a couple of things.
First, it was a glimpse into the type of person Kevin Garnett really is. Sure, we see the fun little curse-filled post-game rants here and there, but no one outside of a Garnett locker room truly knows him, and we probably never will. For a few moments, though, we saw the man who cares deeply about his friend and basketball family.
Second, it showed that in times of tragedy, we need sports, or similar distractions, to keep ourselves sane.
Kevin McHale lost his daughter recently. She was a vibrant, young, 23 year-old, who died from complications from Lupus. A week ago, McHale returned to the bench to resume coaching. He needed to get back to his routine. He needed to get on with his new reality.
Life will never be “normal” again for McHale, just like it will never be normal for the people of Newtown, Connecticut. We, as a nations, as neighbors, as fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, all watched yesterday as the horror unfolded. We hugged our own children a little longer, we cursed the events that allowed this to happen. We questioned some of the things we believe in.
You couldn’t use “normal” to describe anything about yesterday. But at times of tragedy, at times of even national mourning, we need distractions. We need moments to feel whole as the rest of the world feels empty. We need things like a frustrating Celtics loss to the Rockets to allow us a couple of hours to fully invest ourselves in something trivial, just so our minds could stop picturing the awful things our imaginations conjure.
People say sports don’t matter at times like this, but I disagree. They have an important place in helping us maintain the proper mental balance needed to persevere. You don’t have to watch them if you don’t want to. And there’s a respectful step back that sports and sports discussion takes at first, but it’s important for the distraction to be available.
One of the things I love about sports is the ability to lose yourself completely in an alternate universe for hours. The fact that we can get wildly emotional about things that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t mean a whole lot is a wonderful release in the midst of our stressful lives. It’s a necessary release.
My heart aches for the people in Newtown, especially those directly affected by this tragedy. They need our thoughts, and our help. As a nation, we should band together to help heal those in need. And, after the hours, or days, or weeks, or months of grieving, helping, and reflecting, the necessary, trivial matter of athletic competition will reach its hand out to you and help pull you up. It will tell you to relax for just a short while, direct your emotions elsewhere for a brief moment, and it will help you feel a little more normal than you did earlier.
If you would like to help the families affected by the Sandy Hook school tragedy, you can donate to the United Way of Western Connecticut’s fund to support those families. Our deepest condolences go out those families and the community in this moment of unspeakable tragedy.