The world has a funny way of showing us the best and the worst of each other in almost precisely the same moments.
Sport is a sphere that demands differences, divisions, discord. Allegiance to one side necessitates animosity to the other. Even when there is no defined opposition, there are competing schools of thought, competing theories, competing beliefs. It is impossible to write or say anything, whether fact or opinion, without it being torpedoed back to you with some kind of grenade attached. Perhaps everyone just has an underlying need to feel right about things, perhaps social media gives a platform to people who just shouldn’t have it. We’re in the age where instant access to information is our best and our worst friend. Quite simply it seems, people don’t like to agree. Which is fine; debate can be engaging and productive. Going on Twitter to watch incomprehensible arguments ignite appears to be a primary source of entertainment in 2018. There are many times I want to continue a ‘conversation’ with somebody online, only in the effort to enlighten them (or, grudgingly, be enlightened myself), and yet the responsible mini-me sitting on my shoulder desperately jumps on the lock button to force me into a better use of my time. Some people don’t want their minds changed, no matter what you present them with.
Push that mindset to its horrendous extremes, and we see some of the tragedies that have devastated this world lately. This past weekend has been horrific, for the sports world and the world at large, for both inhumane acts by humans, and natural, but no less devastating, events. A beloved football figure suffered a heart attack, while the British sports world and beyond collectively crosses it fingers that he will pull through. I don’t need to go into detail about the Leicester helicopter crash, or the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. Circumstances obviously horrifically different, but both resulting in incomprehensible loss of life and a depth of mourning that crosses lines of football, religion, politics, race, gender and wealth.
This weekend is far from the only time the world has watched the news and taken a mutual intake of breath that cuts at the soul. It’s not even the first time I’ve written about these kinds of feelings. Sometimes it feels like it’s a relentless cycle, one that leaves you struggling to find a light in all of the darkness. When Celia Barquina Arozamena was killed on a golf course only a few weeks ago, it shook the golf world to its core. Almost every single golfer knows the blissful solitude that can arise from playing alone, from being by yourself with the golf course, remembering why you fell in love with the game; for its demands of mental strength versus physical skill. Not one of us has turned down golf for fear of death. But now, sometimes, we hear the noises. We see the shadows. And we stop and wonder. We worry. We lose the moment, in worrying whether we should fear losing our life. It’s not supposed to be like that.
I didn’t know Celia, but I did. I do. Every golfer does. Ever college athlete does. Just as every sports person knows Glenn Hoddle, knows the Leicester pain. Just as every Jew will know the 11 people killed in the synagogue in Pittsburgh. We might crush each other’s fingers in our desire to stay true to our own side, our own beliefs, ourselves – but in times of darkness, we reach out and hold each other’s hands. We pull each other to the light. United.