by Chris Stansbury

There are very few people in this world who would ever say they believe sports is the most important thing in their lives. And coming from a sports fanatic, for those that do, I feel very sorry for you.
That being said, sports has its place, particularly after a horrific event. When it comes down to paying tribute to the fallen, sports teams have one choice. "WE PLAY!"
This weekend, the Marshall Thundering Herd squares off with East Carolina nearly 36 years to the day after a plane crash killed 75 members of the football team, coaching staff and supporters, which included local leaders and a senator. On November 14, 1970, that plane, a DC-9, crashed after a game with East Carolina in Greenville and crippled the university as well as the people of Huntington, West Virginia. The future of the football program was in doubt, until Jack Lengyel stepped up to coach, rebuild the team, the school and a community.
Nine months later, many believed a team with 72 freshmen and sophomores would not only get beat in every game, but would be humiliated. However, in the second game of the season, Lengyel’s "Young Thundering Herd" scored a touchdown as time expired to beat Xavier 15-13. Following the victory, players, coaches and fans cheered, laughed and cried for two hours.
September 11, 2001. New York. Washington. Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 lives cut short by senseless acts of violence. There was no college or pro football. No baseball. No NASCAR. The sports world stopped, as it should have, and mourned. TV comedies weren’t funny, late night talk shows were somber. No one knew what to do.
The New York Yankees and Mets wore NYPD and NYFD hats during games. Huge flags flew proudly in every sports venue nationwide. Slowly but surely, healing occurred. Tears were cried in happiness and sadness. But the sports world help return a nation to a sense of normalcy.
And just this week, the University of Miami football team lost Brian Pata, a Hurricanes defensive player who was shot and killed after practice Tuesday. UM Coach Larry Coker is already taking heat for the decision to play Saturday’s game at #23 Maryland. The players said they want to honor their fallen teammate. They may be only 18, 19 and 20 year old kids, and may not know the full embodiment of what the loss of Brian Pata means, but they know one way to pay their respects.

Chris Stansbury