RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - There are many moments in sports that remind us that sports themselves are just games. Often, these same moments also exhibit the fact that these games help people heal, carry on, feel normal, if only for a couple hours. Tuesday night in Las Vegas was one of those moments.
It marks the first time a major professional sports team has ever played a home game in Vegas. The Golden Knights laced up their skates for their inaugural NHL home opener. But what was supposed to be a celebration of a first for a team, quickly taking the second chair to the needs of a city.
The pregame ceremony turned into a chance to honor and remember victims and heroes of the shooting on Oct. 1, and the Golden Knights put on a golden show. No advertisements on the boards Tuesday night, just the words "Vegas Strong" surrounded the ice.
After a video, the team introduced alongside first responders and those who ran into harms way to help others, in many cases, total strangers. The ceremonial puck-drop was flanked by survivors of the shooting. Then 58 seconds of silence followed to honor the 58 victims who lost their lives, and during that, their names illuminated on the ice. Through that 58 seconds, not a single sound, not one drunk guy screaming for attention, not one audible conversation between distracted patrons, just silence.
Then it was time for the national anthem, sung by the route 91 festival team, and the fans joined in. This has nothing to do with what's been going on across the country during pregame singings. It's not my business or place to tell you how to feel about any of that.
But to those who say the anthem should not be sung before sporting events, I'll offer this. Those few minutes have given some of the most powerful moments that I can remember. I remember the first Star Spangled Banner in New York after Sept. 11, then in the 2001 World Series. I remember the Bruins and Red Sox games in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing. Going forward, I'll definitely add Tuesday night's 91 Festival Star Spangled Banner to that list. The unifying sense that echoed through that building was pretty inspiring.
In a perfect ending, the Knights topped Arizona, 5-2, but it really wouldn't have mattered. Vegas could've lost 20-0 and it still would've been a good night because a sports team did its part to bring people together, lend a helping hand, and did it with class. It's a moment that took a difficult situation, and used it to highlight the good in people.
I also like to see the human side of the athletes. Handshakes with the first responders were genuine. I saw real appreciation as I watched, and I think that human side of players stretches far beyond tragedy. Many of them were hockey, football, baseball, basketball players -- good people, who do good with their time and their money, not overpaid spoiled selfish jerks like the broad brush some paint all athletes with, though I'm sure some of those exists too.
Tuesday night, people were on the ice with genuine concern for their community, and the sports heroes so many of us cheer on, took a back seat and gave way to real heroes.
Teams are always honoring those who do good, such as military members, charities, first responders, law enforcement, just to name a few. We see it during stoppages of play at NFL and college football games, during basketball breaks in the action, between innings in baseball, intermissions in hockey, but it never seems to be in the spotlight as much as it is after tragic events that make headlines.
I wish those who did good would get center stage like last night all the time. It would be a refreshing change from some of the things we see and hear nowadays. The reality is that sometimes it seems to take the worst to see us at our best, and sports offers us the platform to highlight the best. At the very least to those watching, maybe it put some of the things we've all be arguing about recently into a different perspective.
Sometimes, sports are more than games. Sometimes, they're Vegas Strong.
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