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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Commentary

After Harvey, get out to the ballgame


The Houston community needs to stand behind the Houston Strong movement in support of their sports teams to show this city will persevere after the effects of Hurricane Harvey | Courtesy of Larry McCormack , The Tennessean via USA TODAY NETWORK

Houston Strong. Two words that say so much. Words that shout to the world: We are here, and we will not be broken.

It’s a phrase inspired by the motto “Boston Strong,” created following the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

That year, the Boston Red Sox rode that motto all the way to a World Series championship. They took a tragic event and created something the entire Boston community could gather around, not to forget what had happened, but to persevere; to be strong as one city.

Houston has just suffered a tragedy like no one in this city has ever seen. Thousands have been either forced to evacuate or have lost their homes entirely. Worst of all, more than 60 people have lost their lives.

Between floods and widespread displacement, it’s hard not to find similarities between Houston’s Harvey and New Orleans’ Katrina.

But there is a question hovering everywhere — a question of what to do once the waters finally recede. How does life return to normal after suffering through so much trauma?

No one has the perfect answer, but getting back into a routine might help.

That is why I urge all Houstonians to go out to sporting events of all kinds.

Force of will

Look at the Saints following Hurricane Katrina. The Superdome was heavily damaged while it sheltered thousands, and there was a genuine threat that the Saints might leave the city. But they stayed, and the Superdome reopened just 13 months later.

New Orleans responded in force to their team’s commitment. Fans filled the Superdome for the first game of the 2006 season. The atmosphere was such that players from the rival Atlanta Falcons admitted they had no chance to win that day.

The response from the city was so great that it propelled the Saints all the way to the NFC Championship Game, their best result in franchise history at that time.

Hurricane Harvey has done far less damage to the sports arenas in Houston compared to what Katrina did to the Superdome, but this storm left our athletes in an uncomfortable situation: Many of them were outside of the city when the storm hit.

The Astros were playing the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, California. The Texans were in New Orleans for a preseason game against the Saints. Even the Rockets’ James Harden was in Las Vegas attending the Floyd Mayweather-Connor MacGregor boxing match. Our very own football team fled to Austin for practice.

Athletes who care

Nearly all of them have spoken out in frustration at their inability to help those in need back home.

The Texans cancelled their last preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys so the players could return to Houston to attend to their families and help those hurt by the storm. The Astros played a doubleheader against the New York Mets Saturday so the players could use Friday to help those in need. The Cougar’s matchup at UTSA was canceled, too.

These athletes are more than people we see on television. They are real people with families, who care deeply about the city they live in and play for. There’s no better example of that compassion than JJ Watt’s ever-growing fundraiser for Harvey victims.

There is a chance that the Texans will not be able to play their season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Houston on Sept. 10, but head coach Bill O’Brien is adamant that the team needs to play that game in Houston.

It is clear that the players want to be in Houston and play for this city.

That is why I urge all people to go out to the games when they start up. I believe this is important for all Houstonians, not just sports fans. It’s about more than supporting a team. It’s supporting our city. A full crowd at the Cougars’ home opener against Rice would say to the whole city: We have survived, and we are still strong.

So I plead to you: Do not sit at home and watch the games. Go out and be with your friends and neighbors. Show the athletes on the field who they are playing for.

And if history repeats, we might be looking at a beautiful season for our teams.

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