Our passion for sports unifies us

Cohesive and committed communities can accomplish great things when inspired by athletics


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RED DEER, Alta. March 15, 2016/ Troy Media/ – In the lineup of great human endeavours, sport often muscles in where it doesn’t seem to belong.

How does winning a national volleyball title (as the Red Deer College Kings have just done), hosting a Memorial Cup in Red Deer in May or even being awarded the Canada Winter Games measure up against life-changing medical discoveries, remarkable works of art, extraordinary engineering feats, or heroic acts of compassion and selflessness?

Sport is a beacon to a healthier lifestyle, and certainly provides inspiring examples of the strength of individual spirit.

Sporting achievements and the effort to host events increasingly draw our attention. We are intent on diverting public money and human resources toward events and venues for sports, large and small.

Red Deer will host the Canada Winter Games in February-March 2019, and a great deal of work is underway to make the event a success. The first steps, to win hosting rights, were taken by volunteers and community leaders. The next steps will be taken by a professional team, with yet more help from volunteers, while planners and tradespeople build or renovate the necessary venues.

Millions of dollars will be spent.

Principal among the new venues is a health and wellness centre at Red Deer College that will cost about $88 million. That money is coming from several sources, including government, corporate and private donors, and the college’s students association.

This is a long-overdue teaching facility for an institution aggressively trying to gain degree-granting status. But first, it will be the site of events for the Canada Winter Games. Why do people care that much?

When you are cheering for your favourite team (even the perennially pathetic Edmonton Oilers, say), little else seems to matter. We are heart-broken when an athlete stumbles. We are euphoric when an athlete excels despite long odds. When the Brazil Olympic Games roll around in August, we will commit to memory the names and feats of athletes we hadn’t heard of two weeks before.

We will celebrate the fact that, increasingly, sports in general and the Olympic movement in particular have knocked down the barriers to sexual and cultural inequality.

And we will be unabashedly unapologetic about our obsession with all things sporting.

When the World Cup of Hockey takes centre stage in September in Toronto, we will be patriotic to a fault. Like the Olympic Games, a simple hockey tournament will become the gauge by which many nations, not the least of which is Canada, measure national well-being.

We go about our lives looking for inspiration and distraction, purpose and contentment, health and vigour.

And part of that is to be reminded, as often as possible, what the committed human can do, what the healthy body can achieve, and what the collective spirit can imagine.

We want to find lessons we can apply to the most mundane of lives, to give us direction, structure and reason. At the very least, we need a little jolt once in a while that takes us to the completion of a task.

We want to see our favourite athletes redouble their efforts in the face of adversity and succeed. We want them to exert their superiority when it’s obvious, or thrive against all odds. Because that’s how we want to see ourselves. That’s how we want to see our communities and our province and our nation: exceptional in any circumstances. That’s what we see as the best in the human condition, Canadian style: the ability to shrug off disappointment and push on.

On the local level, having the RDC Kings win a national title helps to illuminate the institution’s quest for excellence, in academics and sports. Earning the right to host the Canada Winter Games gives Red Deer an immediate tourism and economic boost, and will provide it with a legacy of public facilities — and the opportunity to come together as a community with a common goal.

If all of that helps a community or a nation to flex its muscles, and individuals to be healthy and engaged, then sport has served our endeavours well.

Troy Media columnist John Stewart is a born and bred Albertan who doesn’t drill for oil, ranch or drive a pickup truck – although all of those things have played a role in his past. John is also included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by all Troy Media columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Troy Media.

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