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Columnist
Amid tragedy, we can still turn to sports
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 1/17/2010 6:29 PM

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Sports at their best are a safe haven.

That's what basketball was supposed to be Sunday morning, when I went to Bulls practice to get away from coverage of the tragedy in Haiti.

But where do you go to get away when the bad news is in sports?

I mean really bad news, not just the Bears botching a coaching hire or Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich coming down with flu-like symptoms.

While waiting for practice to end, word arrived that Bears defensive end Gaines Adams died of apparent cardiac arrest.

Now, I'm not going to tell you I knew Adams. He was here only a few months and made little impact.

But the man was a Bear, which makes him noteworthy. Professional athletes are big deals in society.

Gaines Adams was a seemingly healthy 26-year-old at an imposing 6-foot-5, 256 pounds. That alone is enough to make us mere mortals wonder, "What in the world is going on here?"

(You know, as if tens of thousands of Haitians dying from an earthquake didn't already cause a pause to reflect upon that question.)

Let's let philosophers continue searching for the meaning of life. As a sports writer I'll continue the search for the meaning of sports.

One day I think they're trivial pursuits; the next day I think they're essential to homeland security, or at least to homeland sanity.

Today they're important.

Sports have provided me with a livelihood because all sorts of people are interested in them, and sometimes obsessed with them, even if sometimes it's difficult to understand why.

But it is obvious that sports serve their greatest purpose during times like this, when thousands of all ages die from a natural disaster and one young athlete dies from natural causes.

The feel-better sports moment doesn't have to come from something like the White Sox winning the World Series. It doesn't even have to come from what occurs on the field.

For me, the enduring image of the last decade is the sign displayed in Comiskey Park's left-field bleachers on the night baseball resumed after the 9/11 attacks: "Chicago loves New York."

The message expressed support for the city where terrorists killed thousands by crashing planes into high-rises.

Tragedy bonded our two competing towns and defined us as rivals rather than enemies. Amid grief, hope was conveyed at a baseball game.

Sports are an escape from the worries of the world. After we donate money to disaster relief, utter prayers for the victims and follow the story hour after hour on TV ... well, we need a break.

So what did I do after getting away from the disaster in Haiti by retreating to Bulls practice, only to hear that a promising young Bears football player had died?

I left the Berto Center, returned home and watched a Blackhawks victory and two NFL playoff games.

Meanwhile, I pondered how the Bears would replace Adams and whether this would force them to re-sign Adewale Oguleye.

To steal from the song lyric, sports go on long after the living is done.

Why? Because they have to provide shelter from life's emotional storms.