POSTED ON MAY 29, 2013:
Outside the Ring
Local athletes pitch in
You contribute money. You drop off supplies. A prayer may be spoken. Maybe donating blood is an option. Giving a shoulder to lean on might be all you can offer.
And yet you watch the events of last week unfold and feel helpless. You probably held your family a little tighter for a couple of days.
Flashbacks of May 3, 1999 or Hurricane Katrina probably filled your head.
And you were still contemplating life. What else can I do?
Sports can be an escape during trying times. Shortly after Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, the New Orleans Saints became much more than a football team. They were the symbol of hope for an entire region.
A simple blocked punt returned for a touchdown electrified the masses in the first game played in the Superdome after Katrina. For the first time in a long time, thousands had a reason to cheer.
The scene inside the TD Garden captured the spirit of Boston after the horrendous marathon bombing. A united crowd stood and sang like they had never sung before. Their truly inspired version of our national anthem made the YouTube rounds.
Name another form of entertainment with the power to heal and unite like a sporting event. No offense to a television show or escapist movie. Those are fine, but not necessarily a shared experience. Maybe a concert is a feel-good moment, but there is no possibility of an uplifting celebration with strangers.
Sports create a synergy of positivity. For those few hours, you feel connected to those around you. The players feel the moment as well. It is the magic of sports.
What can you do to help? Some ask the question and others take action. Maybe you did both.
Images of an Oklahoma City number 35 jersey hanging from the rubble inspires. When Kevin Durant donated a cool million dollars to the Red Cross, it worked wonders for the effort and the spirit.
COURTESY OF TRITON FIGHT CENTER
The Red Cross boasted of his generosity. He did not. The Thunder organization committed one million dollars as well. The NBA and NBAPA chipped in with an equal amount. Their slogan "NBA Cares" no longer sounds hollow rolling across the Oklahoma plains.
Watching Russell Westbrook hobble through the devastation on crutches means something. He eschewed a rehab session to rehabilitate some morale.
Los Angeles Dodgers slugger and Oklahoma City native Matt Kemp offered up a big money contribution as well as an additional donation for each home run between now and the All-Star break. Let's go, Kemp.
"Our prayers go out to the many families devastated by this tragedy," said OU football coach Bob Stoops in a release. "Any loss of life is terrible, but it's even more heartbreaking any time you know that children were among those who perished or were seriously injured."
Both OU and OSU have been available during the relief efforts. Whether offering housing to displaced survivors or care for abandoned or injured animals, any assistance helps.
The Tulsa Shock also teamed with the Red Cross. They collected items last week and held silent auctions with all proceeds going directly to the effort in Moore. Players, coaches, and staff personally delivered the goods this past Tuesday.
Our Tulsa Drillers hit a grand slam this past weekend. A monetary pledge was backed up with additional opportunities for Drillers fans to get in the game. A silent auction with items from the Drillers, their affiliate, as well as other Texas League squads and their affiliates hit the spot.
"It is tragic what has happened to the residents of Moore and Shawnee," said Drillers General Manager Mike Melega in a release. "We truly hope that our efforts can provide a small amount of comfort and help for some of the victims."
A pugilistic column would not be complete without a touch of martial arts. Several of the local gyms have shown interest in helping, but one stands out above the rest in this regard.
Triton Fight Center owner and instructor Piet Wilhelm leads students on the mat but also his community in his actions. It does not take a black belt (although he is one) to make a difference, but it does not hurt either.
His gym has been another staging point for donated items. Supplies collected will be delivered to the affected areas.
He and his affiliates have used free seminars to acquire additional money, gift cards, and essential items. Through his Facebook page, he has kept information flowing at a time when other business owners may be running discounts or specials.
He is not doing it for the publicity (you haven't seen the other newspapers or television stations cover his efforts, have you?). It's not for the possibility of additional students once his efforts are complete (which might not be any time soon).
He does it because it is the right thing to do. It is what we all hope the rest of Oklahoma would do for us under similar circumstances. It is compassionate caring at its finest.
It is also one of the fundamental reasons why people practice martial arts. We may glorify the fighting portion of the business, but as Piet Wilhelm continues to illustrate, there is much more involved in this way of life.
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