Make no mistake; I am one of the fortunate ones. Oh, I have ashes on my car. Others have ashes in their homes. While I see smoke in the air, others see smoke in their yards. While smoke fills my lungs, it fills others with despair.
Sports fans often live in very isolated worlds. Athletes are even more insulated. As Phil's fans, we cannot help but discuss the prospects of adding a closer like Billy Wagner or Tom Gordon. We anticipate with gleeful excitement the latest Ed Wade free-agent signings and we hope for a Pat Burrell turnaround.
Yet reality always reminds us of what the sports world really is… an escape from reality and not a visit into it! As we hear about the latest childish feud between multi-millionaire players like Shaquille O'Neill and Kobe Bryant, a somber note should touch us all. While they cannot decide whether or not they can coexist in Los Angeles, some others may not be given the same choice.
The image of a man whose home was destroyed for the second time by fire was an indelible one to me. I ventured a guess that it mattered very little to him whether or not Kevin Millwood signed with the Phils or Braves. I doubt that he cares whether or not Bartolo Colon will change his mind and accept a three year 36 million dollar offer from the Chicago White Sox.
As firefighters work 24-hour shifts to help people they have never met, I hope a baseball player will think of this when complaining about playing a double-header. The next time an athlete complains about receiving no respect, I hope he is reminded that the fires now engulfing Southern California have no respect for property or person.
This column is certainly not meant to disparage baseball or the fine athletes who play it. In fact, I am quite sure that many baseball players will no doubt attempt to assist those in need. Many wonderful players live in Southern California and they are even better human beings than they are baseball players.
The humane efforts of players like Tony Gwynn, Tim Salmon and Eric Karros are well known in these parts. They live here and remind people everyday that they consider it more important to be good community members than it is to be good baseball players.
Yet, sports lately have taken on an importance that cannot be healthy for anyone. It is when disaster strikes, as it has here in California, that we are reminded of this. Suddenly, when we ask which way the wind is blowing, it has to do with saving a housing track in the middle of the mountains, and not whether or not it will cause more home runs to be hit at Wrigley Field.
Now, any discussion of possible rain is not an indication of a cancelled ball game, but a cancelled wild fire. The word saves has new meaning now. We are no longer talking about the saves of Jose Mesa, Keith Foulke or Ugueth Urbina. We are talking about saved trees, and homes… and lives.
Again, it is important to understand my passion for sport. After all, I write about my Phils three times a week and I do it with a joy few non-sports fans could ever understand. Yet, reality is never far away, and I have always been aware of this. Sports scores, and Marlin championships and George Steinbrenner meltdowns all have their place.
In fact, baseball provides untold joy for millions. This off-season promises to be one of the most exciting as teams attempt to emulate the Florida Marlins and their recent success. With the World Series Championships of the Anaheim Angels and the Marlins during the past two years, a major rebirth of baseball may be about to take place.
No longer will money rule the day as 180 million dollars could buy the Yankees neither happiness nor a championship. Teams are no longer built with dollar signs, but stealth, wisdom and patience. Players who can leave their egos at the door are now more popular than players who can leave their teams at a moments notice for greener pastures.
For our Philadelphia Phillies, these are exciting times. A new stadium is on the horizon. Mike Schmidt is back with the organization. Curt Schilling may be returning to the scene of some of his most memorable moments.
The team promises to be active on the trading front and minor leaguers like Ryan Madson, Taylor Buchholtz, Cole Hamels and Gavin Floyd may soon join Jim Thome, Bobby Abreu and Jimmy Rollins in returning glory to Philadelphia.
Yes, these are the times when it seems wonderful to be a Phil's fan. No one can be blamed for feeling like the winds are calm, the skies are blue and the visibility is endless. This is today's reality, Philadelphia Phillie style.
Yet for many, the winds are gusting, the skies are dark and visibility is dim. This, too, is reality, Southern California style. This reality is not in runs scored, but homes saved. Not in games lost, but people rescued.
As we digest our sports page in the coming months and we read about the heroes of sport who saved a game or a series or a season, it would do well to remember this. Bigger heroes today are doing their best to save a tree, or a street… or a community. Of this, a solid reality check is always good medicine.
Columnist's Note: I welcome suggestions, questions and comments. Please send them to email@example.com and I will respond! CD from the Left Coast