Mike Strange: Even sports has a place for fans to give thanks

Mike Strange

On Christmas Day, 1914, a remarkable soccer game took place. The result wasn't memorable but the circumstances were.

One side was British, the other German. The game, or maybe it was just a kick-around, took place in No Man's Land, between two trenches.

In the days prior to and immediately after the spontaneous soccer moment, the same forwards and midfielders were busy killing each other. World War I was on.

On Saturday, sides from Tennessee and Kentucky will grapple and hit each other for approximately three hours, as violently as the rules allow.

But on Friday and on Sunday, the Vols and Wildcats won't be trying to kill each other with guns and poison gas.

For this we give thanks.

In 1939, Niles Kinnick of Iowa won the Heisman Trophy. In his acceptance speech, Kinnick said, "I thank God I was warring on the gridirons of the Midwest and not on the battlefields of Europe.''

Before too long, however, many Americans were warring on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific. Kinnick joined the service and died in a 1943 plane crash on a training mission.

When Auburn's Cam Newton, or someone else, wins the Heisman next month, it's unlikely he'll be headed off to any battlefield.

For this we give thanks.

On July 11, 2009, Iraq's national soccer team played its first home match in seven years.

In the preceding decades the team had been administered by Uday Hussein, the brutal son of Saddam. The players were tortured and humiliated for failures on the field. After losing an important game in 1994 they were forced to play barefoot with a concrete ball.

A losing streak in our sports world might mean running extra sprints or being temporarily moved out of a plush locker room for more modest quarters.

For this sanity and perspective we give thanks.

In 1994, Amahoro Stadium in Kigali, Rwanda, became a haven for 12,000 Tutsis to avoid rampaging genocide since it was protected by U.N. troops. Living conditions were miserable but it was still living.

The next time you complain that your seat in Neyland Stadium is too small or the line at the concession stand is too long, think of Amahoro and give thanks.

In Lima, Peru, in 1964, the crowd rioted when an official disallowed a Peruvian goal in a soccer match against Argentina. The chaos led to 318 deaths and 500 more injured.

If the worst that happens Saturday at Neyland is that a few Kentucky and Tennessee fans getting in a taunting match, remember Lima and give thanks.

In 2001, Natalie du Toit of South Africa was a rising young swimming star. On the way home from practice one day, she was hit by a car. Her left leg was amputated, leaving only a stump.

By 2004 she was swimming with one leg and winning gold in the Paralympics.

By 2008 she qualified for the Olympic Games in Beijing and finished 16th in the 10,000 meters. With one leg.

If you're an athlete trying to come back from a broken wrist or even a torn ACL, think of what du Toit faced and give thanks.

And for all our other blessings, on and off the playing fields of sports, give thanks.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com or 865-342-6276. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 3

alvol3460 writes:

Good article Mike, puts things in right perspective.

uttcut writes:

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

psychovol2 writes:

I give thanks for my famiy, that my children are to old to serve (even though my son is in Brussels this week working at NATO) and that my Father at 80 will be attending the KY game with me.

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