It has been a staple of American sports writing for decades: When there are dramatic events (primarily tragic) in the world or our region, we like to embrace humility and suggest we are working for the “toy department’’ of a news outlet, that it’s sports and it doesn’t really matter that much.
I’ve been writing columns since 1979 and I’m sure there are some among the thousands where those clichés were embraced.
I’ve decided over the last week that this has been wrong all along. Sports touch so many people in so many different ways that they are gigantically important.
We’re not comparing this to terrorist attacks and heinous crimes. We’re talking about what’s important in people’s everyday lives. And, sports here and elsewhere rarely have seemed more important than in the past week.
It started last Thursday with the death of Walter Bush at age 86. Bush had more to do with bringing the NHL to Minnesota than anyone. He was the lead person in the group that landed an expansion franchise in February 1966, and then was president for the North Stars for a decade.
Minnesotans reveled in having an NHL team. That was not always obvious with attendance during the down years, but it became clear after Norm Green moved the franchise to Dallas after the 1993 season.
It took seven years for us to get an NHL team on the ice again. From the outset, people have supported the Wild in a style to assure that Minnesota never will be without a NHL team again.
It was Walter Bush’s vision that gave Minnesota the taste of the NHL that is now irresistible.
On Sunday, we had a double dose of sports importance: the tragic death of Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, in a boating accident, and the death of Arnold Palmer, the man who was golf’s first hero of the TV age, at 87.
Reading and watching the level of anguish in South Florida over the young pitcher’s death was remarkable. Reading and hearing the tributes from the golf world for Palmer has been a reminder of how much influence one person can have on people through sport.
Arnie’s Army. It was real.
We also learned again that sports has fate. It really does. We saw that twice in 24 hours in baseball.
The Marlins cancelled Sunday’s game with Atlanta in the wake of Fernandez’s death. Play resumed Monday night in Miami with all of the Marlins wearing replicas of Fernandez’s No. 16 jersey.
Dee Gordon was the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the first. He homered. He cried. Everyone cried.
Also Monday, Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz flew to Miami to be with Fernandez’s family. Diaz and Fernandez had grown up on the same street in Cuba before defecting.
Diaz returned to St. Louis on Tuesday. He was an emotional mess because of his friend’s death, but decided to play. He hit his first grand slam in the big leagues in the fourth inning to bring the Cardinals from behind in what became a 13-5 victory.
There was a little fate involved with Arnie’s death, also. He died at the start of Ryder Cup week, putting a large share of the world’s best golfers in one place – Hazeltine National – to pay tribute.
There were an estimated 37,000 fans at the course for Tuesday’s first practice round. They were swarming the gigantic merchandise building to the point that it was closed briefly because of overcrowding.
Yup. Too many people give their all (including credit cards) to sports for it to be meaningless in the big picture.
I mean, were you watching as Vin Scully had a tape played of him singing “Wind Beneath My Wings’’ to his wife as his Dodger Stadium sendoff on Sunday?
He was an L.A. play-by-play man who I met once, and I was sniffling in the TV den in Golden Valley.
Sentimental, tragic, sad, grand (slam) ... sports are great.