As a soccer fan, nationalism is often derided in sports. After all, many times offensive and repugnant actions in the stands or sidewalks outside of matches are the result of misdirected nationalistic tendencies. Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World is rife with examples, especially in places like the Bulkans where there is a history of nationalistic strife.
But sometimes sports can be a uniting factor and a place where healing can begin. A video has gone viral (and I am using the link from The Huffington Post) of French soccer fans leaving Stade de France, a site of one of the terrorist attacks. These fans sat through a match, probably heard via social media what was happening, were kept in the stadium while the worst was occurring, heard three (I believe) bombs go off, and then had to be evacuated into the chaos. And their reaction? Sing the national anthem in unity.
It remind me of the Mets and Phillies game a few years back where Citizens Bank Park erupted into spontaneous chants of “USA” when the news leaked that Osama bin Laden had been killed.
Or even the famous first pitch in New York during the 2001 World Series
Over the coming months there will be many important debates on incredibly important issues. We live in a changing world that in many ways has not changed at all except the technology around it. But sports will always be there to uplift us and unite us. Even though sports has their own scandals, even those related to patriotism, it can be an important escape for a brief time from those things with terrorize us.
What game or match do you remember as helping heal a country or area after a disaster or traumatic event?