Three Instances This Weekend Reminded Viewers Life Is More Than the Game

Tonight at sundown (September 18, 2018), Yom Kippur starts. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement for Jewish people around the world. It is a time for reflection and a time to apologize for all the sins of the past year. These moments of reflection are invariably a good thing. It leads certain people (read: certain bloggers) to think about when they take the world of sports a bit too seriously and feel childish for forgetting that life is more important than the game. For the most part, life takes a back seat to the game, but this weekend there were three stories/moments that reminded anyone that would pay attention that life is more than the game.

The first instance to occur was after the Chiefs/Steelers game. An offensive onslaught of a game where neither defense could really find an answer. The Chiefs took down the Steelers 42-37, but that was secondary to what happened after the game. The first moment this weekend that reminded viewers that life is more than the game came when Eric Berry, the 2015 NFL Comeback Player of the Year for surviving Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2014, embraced James Conner, who contracted the same type of cancer his Junior year (2015) while at Pittsburgh. It took Conner 12 chemotherapy treatments before he was able to say the cancer was in remission, eventually rushing for more than 1,000 yards in 2016 and scoring 19 touchdowns before declaring for the NFL Draft and getting selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers. While Berry made All-Pro in 2016 and Conner has alleviated the absence of Le’Veon Bell through the first two games of the Steelers’ season, it was their embrace after the game, as fellow cancer survivors, that was the most poignant reminder that in the game of life, surviving is how you win.

The second reminder that life is more important than the game came late Monday evening when Marcus Smart penned the type of tribute nobody wants to make.

The NBA world found out that Marcus Smarts’ mom, Camellia, had contracted cancer right about the time the Celtics started to make their playoff run. At that moment, Smart was out with a thumb injury he sustained when punching out a glass pane. When Smart returned for Game Five against the Celtics First Round opponent, the Milwaukee Bucks, he immediately (and recklessly) dove for a loose ball.

But he was everywhere that night. Playing like a man possessed:

He threw himself both figuratively, and literally, into his play. He said he wanted to play for his mom because watching him play always gave her joy. He tried everything he could to make his mom happy, and he did everything he could to make her proud. Unfortunately, Camellia succumbed to her cancer on September 16, 2018, and while Smart is the personification of the hard-nosed, do-it-all player, he will have to figure out a way to do-it-all without his mom. Smart has always been all about the game when he is on the court, but when he takes the court on October 16 for the Celtics first game of the season, he will do so knowing the hardest lesson of all; there are some things in life the game cannot replace.

The final thing that happened this weekend has thrown New England, and the NFL, into an uproar; the New England Patriots acquired Josh Gordon. Gordon’s issues with addiction have been long (and well) documented. It seems like everyone in football is rooting for Gordon to succeed because everyone realizes Gordon’s problems are more important than the game. People want him to succeed because we all want to believe a man with his talents can conquer his demons, or at least keep them in check long enough so he can live a productive and happy life.

Most addicts can only succeed if they have a strong support group, which is why it was reassuring and beautiful to hear Patriots Matthew Slater talk about Gordon, “It’s our responsibility as teammates to make sure he feels welcome and supported in our locker room,” Slater said. “Just be there for him, that’s your role as a teammate and a leader to support your teammates.” Slater takes his role as a leader very seriously. He is a devout Christian and shares his faith whenever asked. He says it has kept him grounded through his time in the NFL.

His faith and rock-lock stability are there not just for teammates, but for anybody in the NFL. After every game, you can see Slater leading a prayer group with Patriots players as well as their opponent that week. He is exactly the type of person that when he says, “be there for him,” he means it in whatever way Josh Gordon needs it. While many spout platitudes about being a good teammate, when Slater says it, he takes being a good teammate seriously; he is there because for the person wearing the jersey, not the jersey itself. Hopefully for the person Josh Gordon, not the wide receiver, but the person Josh Gordon, that will be enough to keep him sober.

Whenever sports gets to be too much, remember that life is more than the game. The game is great: it can pull people out of poverty, it can help others overcome social deficiencies, and it can provide a reprieve when life gets too heavy. But when we lose sight about its importance and weigh the game over the more important things in life, we do a disservice to those around us. Sports are wonderful. The game can be beautiful. But life is more beautiful. Family, friends, relationships, those are the things that make life worth living and remind us that life is more important than the game. This weekend, the sports worlds gave us three reminders of just that. So next time you are getting angry or upset over your team or a player, remember that life is beautiful, even when the game is not.