Tackling sports, society after tragedy

Jason Whitlock had an engaging discussion with Dr. Harry Edwards (above) on Real Talk.
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Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock writes about the sports world from every angle, including those other writers can't imagine or muster courage to address. His columns are humorous, thought-provoking, agenda-free, honest and unpredictable. E-mail him, follow his Twitter or become a fan of Jason Whitlock on Facebook.


The bombings at the Boston Marathon left me speechless and confused. An American sporting tradition that stretches to 1897 sabotaged by an unknown terrorist or terrorist organization. An 8-year-old boy killed, two others dead, more than 170 people injured.

I was asleep in my hotel room when a bomb exploded at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. I can’t remember what I wrote or thought at the time. That was before 9/11, before security concerns were pervasive on American soil.

I’ve been a sports columnist for more than 20 years. I pride myself on having something original, relevant, insightful or poignant to say when the real world collides with the sports world. Monday, I had nothing beyond the obvious. The world has gone crazy, sick with violence, hatred and fear. These are troubling times.

Tuesday, I reached out to my friend Dr. Harry Edwards for some wisdom. He has been at the forefront of the discussion about sports, politics and culture for more than 40 years. He is inarguably one of the brightest sports minds ever produced. During a 45-minute podcast interview, Dr. Edwards crystalized for me what we — sports fans and sports participants — should remember and focus on in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.

“Sport is the largest and most public popular venue for demonstrating a commitment to American values, goals, sentiments and so forth,” Dr. Edwards said. “It’s not accidental that sport embodies that cultural blueprint of competitiveness, discipline, hard work, patriotism, religiosity to a large extent, most certainly character in terms of courage and honesty and these kinds of values and sentiments. That’s what draws Americans to American sports and American sports heroes . . .

“Sport is fundamental to who we are and what we are as Americans. When sports are attacked, you’re essentially attacking something that is at the very core of what this society is and what this society professes to aspire to be.”

I asked Dr. Edwards what advice he would give sports fans who are fearful of attending or participating in large-scale sporting events.

“Fear is the goal of this kind of attack,” Dr. Edwards said, “to disrupt, to destroy, to totally devastate not just in terms of casualties at the site of the event, but to devastate psychology and spiritually a whole population of people. People have to be now thinking, ‘Do I really wanna go to that Celtics game, do I really want to go to that 49ers game, what about that St. Louis Cardinals game, do I really want to go’?

“We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to this society, what we’re supposed to stand for, to keep our eyes open, to be vigilant, to watch for anything that appears to be off key. Understanding we have to get it right every time whereas those who would do these kind of things only have to get it right once. I would go back to the words of our National Anthem. It doesn’t say the land of the free and the home of the afraid. It says the land of the free and the home of the brave. I think those words have to mean something in difficult times. Anybody can be brave when there’s nothing at stake and there’s no threat.”

You can hear my entire podcast with Dr. Harry Edwards at or on iTunes.

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