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Volume 68, Issue 118, Tuesday, March 25, 2003


Balls, bats better than guns, bombs

Cougar Pause

Tom Carpenter

After munching a couple of hot apple pies from McDonaldis (every Daily Cougar reporteris bane), I began the long trek back to the newsroom to hammer out a sports story, my mind lost in thought about the dangerous plight of the world.

Senior forward Louis Truscott attempts to score. The Cougarsi season is over, but basketball is still on the minds of many people -- it may be just the diversion needed during the time of war.

Kevin Harwerth/The Daily Cougar

The steady "plink" of an aluminum bat smacking the old horsehide, coming from the batting cage across from Mickey Dis on Elgin Street, shattered my somber reverie.

From the moment that hollow "plink" registered in my brain, the war clouds over Baghdad disappeared from my thoughts; exploding bombs and streaking cruise missiles were replaced by joyous memories of towering fly balls and screaming line drives.

The booming fire of a tank cannon became the crackerjack swing of a young boyis bat as he took a Norman Rockwell cut at a fastball and drove it deep; and thatis when it hit me.

We have to keep playing ­ but not just for us worried folks in the United States, hoping and praying our brothers and sons, daughters and husbands, friends and neighbors return home unscathed from the war in Iraq.

We need to keep playing for the soldiers and sailors and airmen fighting for this country in a distant land, because those valiant warriors who lay their lives on the line for their country need to know that everything back home is OK.

Nothing says "America" to a soldier or sailor whois hunkered in a bunker or a foxhole, or sleeping in the seat of his or her tank, like hearing the faint voice of a ballpark vendor screaming, "Cold beer, here. Get your ice-cold beer right here," broadcast over the Armed Forces radio network.

Profanity-laced conversations break out in those dirty, hot hellholes when the troops reminisce about their visits to Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium or the Astrodome.

Blistering adjectives fill the air when arguments between soldiers break out in foxholes and bunkers about whose team will take the World Series this year, whether Roger Clemens still has it at 40 or whether Kentucky can win it all in the NCAA Tournament.

Sports take on an even greater importance to a 20-year-old soldier when his life could end at any moment.

Soldiers become intensely alive when death stalks the battlefield, and news about a favorite team can do wonders for a lonely soldieris morale.

The professional sports teams and the colleges played it right when they canceled all the sports events for a week after the 9-11 attacks.

That was a harrowing, sobering time. America, our country, was under attack.

The NCAA and the professional sports leagues made the right move again when they insisted on playing their games in spite of the war that erupted in Iraq and the fact that American lives are in jeopardy on the battlefield.

KHOU took a lot of heat because it decided to broadcast the NCAA Tournament during the war. Plenty of people think the tournament should have been postponed, or called off completely, and Iim certain the station heard from those individuals.

But those good-intentioned folks are wrong when they insist that the coverage of sports events should be suspended during or superceded by the war.

In this wonderful age of technology, even a "grunt" (thatis an infantryman for those of you not familiar with the lingo) can fire up his or her laptop and get up-to-the-minute reports about a favorite team.

In the hellhole of the Iraqi desert, itis only right to give our troops a little bit of home any way we can.

For tens of thousands of 18-to-25-year-old soldiers, sailors and airmen, home is the sharp crack of the bat knocking the horsehide cover off a baseball.

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