From the Edge: Sports can matter

It’s not too late to help out tsunami victims
It has to rank up there with one of my all-time pet peeves. And we hear it told us to us every time a horrific tragedy occurs.

“Well, Bob, the painful loss of life this country suffered on 9/11 really helps us put sports into perspective.”

“Well, Joe, this catastrophic tsunami disaster over in southern Asia really lets us know how unimportant these Packers games are.”

It’s just assumed that we, as sports fans, need something terrible to happen before we can truly realize that there are more important things out there than the Super Bowl and our fantasy baseball team.

Well, thanks guys, but most of us know that already. Most of us can decipher between the loss of thousands of lives and the loss of Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. We don’t need to be told by Terry Bradshaw, Dick Vitale and the weekend sports guy on the local news.

If any of you people do, please seek help – immediately.

No, most of us are smart enough to put sport in its proper place.

But we’re also smart enough to know the role athletics can play in a person’s life. How many among us didn’t take part in at least some sporting activity as a child? And how many of us didn’t take at least something positive out of the experience?

Like it or not, sports are unquestionably part of the fabric of our society – no matter how small a part. And we’re not unique, either. Sports are enjoyed by kids all over the world, from the plush ski resorts in Switzerland to the dusty sandlots in the Dominican.

Which brings us back to southern Asia, along with the eastern tip of Africa and everywhere else affected by the tsunami, which killed an estimated 150,000 and left another 150,000 missing.

It’s been about a month now. About a month since one of the worse natural disasters this world has ever known.

If history is any indication, this is usually about the time we start to forget about such things. We simply move on and get back to talking about SpongeBob and Michael Jackson and whatever controversy or “Trial of the Century!” television wants to hype up next. You know, the important stuff.

The moving on goes a bit slower when your town is still a lake, though. It doesn’t get much better when your family is still homeless, like millions still are in the affected areas.

Now thanks to overwhelmingly generous support from around the globe – including $37 million from the sports world, by the way – the basic needs of most survivors are being taken care of.

At some point, though, normal everyday life will return. At some point, little kids in Sri Lanka will want to pick up their cricket bats. Little kids in India will want to work on their jump shot. Little kids in Thailand will want to kick around their soccer ball.

So let’s help them out.

Why not us?

Although I’m sure it would be much appreciated, I’m not necessarily talking about monetary donations here. I’m sure many of you have already given generously and you should be commended for that. You’re making a difference.

No, what I’m talking about is simple – simple, but profoundly important in my opinion.

Gavilan assistant basketball coach Mike Baumgartner feels the same way. A Hollister native and former boys’ hoops coach at Gilroy High, Baumgartner comes ready-made with a big heart.

For years, his family has sponsored children from around the world, and he – like the rest of us – watched helplessly last month as kids wondered around in the rubble looking for their parents. Looking for any form of hope.

With your help, Baumgartner wants to provide a little bit of that hope.

“I’ve actually been interested in trying to get a group of local coaches and ex-athletes together for a little fundraiser in our community,” he said. “Honestly, it could easily be done with a little effort from a few people.”

Just ask the folks at Luigi Aprea Elementary. Earlier this school year, under the direction of Principal Sergeo Montenegro and with the help of Sportmart, school kids brought in soccer balls and other sports equipment to donate to their fellow school kids in Iraq. By all accounts, the idea worked wonderfully.

So how ’bout an encore, Gilroy?

We’re not talking about millions of dollars here. Remember, we have to leave all that money to decorate the new police station.

No, let’s think more creatively and on a lesser scale. Something down the line of bringing sports back to a ravaged community – or at the very least a smile or two.

“I really think sports can provide a distraction from daily life,” Baumgartner said. “With all the things those kids are going through, it’s a positive distraction.

“And you know, maybe all we end up doing is sending over some basketballs or a bunch of uniforms or something. But when you see one of those kids smile or you’re told how thankful everyone is … well, you know you’ve done something good.”

So let’s do something good, sports fans.

E-mail me at the below address and we’ll figure out some creative way to get this ball rolling. I’m quite certain coach Baumgartner isn’t the only one interested in helping out.

As sports fans, most of us have the reasonable-enough ability to keep athletics in their proper perspective, while at the same time understanding what a positive impact they can have on children around the world.

According to some broadcasters and out-of-touch media types, this is apparently a rare and admirable trait.

Might as well put it to good use.

Might as well make a difference.

Brett Edgerton is a columnist for South Valley Newspapers. He can be reached at [email protected]