The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

May 22, 2013

Column: Sports world steps up in tornado aftermath

We cling to any bright moment. We celebrate the smallest bit of good news. From relatively small good news such as photos and images of pets being rescued from the rubble, to more substantive heroic stories of teachers protecting children and parents shielding their own kids in a time of terror, we understandably cherish those moments and images. 

In the aftermath of the devastating tornado that struck Moore this week, we need to see the positives that lift up our spirits in the wake of such tragedy. Frankly, it’s good for the soul and it’s good to shed tears of happiness in the wake of so much sorrow.

By now we know that 24 people, including 10 children, lost their lives in those terrible moments. We witnessed the destruction — some of us watching it unfold on live TV in helpless disbelief — of what is now classified as an EF-5 tornado (wind in excess of 200 mph) that packed more force, according to several experts, than the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. The rubble that once was neighborhoods now stands as testament to the horrific power of nature.

National media have descended upon Moore, whose residents would gladly give up the sudden attention if they could recover their lost loved ones.

The devastation and sorrow have caught the world’s attention.

Pope Francis stated his “closeness to the families in the Oklahoma tornado,” also specifically mentioning “those who lost young children.”

If there was any doubt as to the worldwide attention, it was answered personally for me when I was listening online to a Dutch language radio station in Belgium as a friend of mine, a musician on tour in Europe, was about to appear live and perform on the air. While waiting for his appearance, the station went to a newscast. The only words I understood? “Oklahoma” and “Moore.”

In such times we turn, out of necessity to maintain a sense of mental balance, to other outlets to take our mind off the tragedy we have seen. Sports are such an outlet for many.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have provided many exciting moments. If there ever was a time Oklahomans could use the excitement of NBA playoff basketball, it would be now. Unfortunately, the short-handed Thunder, playing without Russell Westbrook, bowed out of the playoffs last week in the second round against Memphis. But it is heartening to see that the Thunder are still there, and in a much more meaningful way.

Thunder superstar forward Kevin Durant has pledged $1 million via his Durant Family Foundation for tornado relief. “I call Oklahoma City my home,” Durant told The Associated Press Wednesday. “I go through Moore all the time … we’re going to come together as a city like we always do and we’re going to bounce back. He said he was looking forward to returning back to OKC, “just to get to the hospital, see some kids. Playing for the Thunder, we mean so much to the state. So many people support us and I just want to go back and support those people.”

Durant’s pledge was matched with million dollar pledges from the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Thunder Cares Foundation. The NBA and the NBA Players Association jumped in with $1 million pledges.

Others also have stepped up.

The Houston Astros, whose top minor league team, the Oklahoma City RedHawks plays in downtown OKC, have announced they will donate funds via a “Jerseys Off Their Backs” promotion this week where fans can bid on game-worn jerseys. Astros players’ wives will be selling “mystery grab bags” that also contain autographed baseballs.  All proceeds will go to the American Red Cross relief efforts.

Midwest City native, and current Los Angeles Dodger, Matt Kemp has pledged $1,000 for each home run he hits until the All-Star break.

The money will not erase the pain or wipe away the tears, but it will go a long way toward rebuilding and providing some measure of comfort.

Sports figures are accustomed to standing ovations and receiving plaudits for their on-field or on-court accomplishments. In this case, they deserve one for their heartfelt generosity and for giving us one of those bright moments we need. Well done, folks. Well done.

Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at daver@enidnews.com.

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