By Grant Vassos
The Marshall University plane crash of 1970 and the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl air disaster of 2011 both have one thing in common—they share a story of individuals whose lives were tragically taken from them, and a memory of what could have been. In the past month, we were reminded of that pain once again.
On Monday night of Nov. 28, a BAE156 Bolivian charter flight carrying the members and staff of a Brazilian soccer team, Chapecoense, crashed into the mountainside in Colombia. The tragic incident killed a total of 71 passengers on board, with the majority including Chapecoense players and exactly 21 journalists. Miraculously, six survivors were able to emerge from the plane crash despite being severely injured. The survivors included three members of the soccer team—Alan Ruschel, Hélio Neto, and Jackson Follman.
Chapecoense were on a flight to Medellín, Colombia to play against a Brazilian team, Atletico Nacional, to compete in the finals of the Copa Sudamericana tournament. As true underdogs of the South American soccer league, Chapecoense had continuously struggled to compete in the Série D competition, the weakest of the four divisions. Chapecoense was finally able to escape the depths of mediocrity after they made their first ever Série A debut in 2014, a feat they had yet to accomplish since 1979.
Upon hearing of the devastating loss, players of Atletico Nacional rallied together to inform the league of their request to award Chapecoense with their first ever Série A Championship trophy in club history.
The morning of the same day, a man drove his car into a group of student-bystanders at Ohio State University and proceeded to stab them with a butcher’s knife. The man would eventually be killed after being shot by a policeman. Once the storm had settled, 12 students were injured while one student was believed to be in critical condition.
Two days before the attack on Ohio State, its Buckeyes football team had just completed a double-overtime victory over its key rivals from up north, the Michigan Wolverines. For those reading who are unaware of their background, the bad blood that intertwines the history of these two universities is both unparalleled and unprecedented. To put it simply, these teams hate each other. Despite the hatred that divides these universities, there is an unwritten code for teams to always come together when the other is at their weakest.
After being informed of the stabbing at Ohio State campus, thousands of Michigan players, staff, and students alike extended their heartfelt concerns for students who were hospitalized through direct tweets urging for their safety and protection.
If you were hoping to read an opinion about whether I agree with a sports topic, this is not one of those letters. I’m writing this because, despite all of the delusional ecstasy that competitive sports can provide, the athletic bonds formed by players, fans, and outsiders alike will always be challenged by the hardships of reality.
Were these circumstances an act of terrorism? An act of individuality? In truth, they were neither. One was a catastrophic coincidence that happened to occur at the most unbearable of times, the other was a gutless act of brutality to innocent people hoping to better their lives. At the end of the day, we will forever identify these two historic events as tragedies.
One would think that calamities such as these would do nothing else but deprive the communal spirit of this generation. Yet, what we witnessed instead was a grieving soccer league and a college rivalry become closer than ever before. We cheer for our teams, we live for the excitement, we suffer from the mishaps, and we come together when times are tough. That’s all sports should be.