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Steve Christilaw: Sporting events an apt stage for more than just athletics

When Shakespeare wrote “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players …,” he most definitely didn’t have the Seahawks-Rams game from Sunday in mind. The only thing staged about that game were the L.A. touchdown celebrations.

Other than that, it had all the stage presence of a sideshow event where contestants wrestle a bear – or as the bear considers it: “playing with your food.”

That’s not to rebuke the Bard of Avon. Anyone with a passing knowledge of Facebook Live can turn even the most mundane event into a major production. Now you can’t have a good dinner out without whipping your phone out to post a photo of your plate online.

But it didn’t take the invention of the cellphone camera to turn life into a production.

The Super Bowl is a prime example. Anyone remember the halftime show from the very first Super Bowl?

That’s not a trick question. There WAS a halftime show. It featured the University of Arizona Marching Band and the Grambling State University Marching Band, with a guest appearance by the great trumpeter, Al Hirt. It was such a hit that Grambling was asked to come back for Super Bowl II.

It wasn’t until Super Bowl X that the halftime show was centered on a group that WASN’T a marching band from an area high school (they were featured in Super Bowl III in Miami) or University. The group Up With People performed to celebrate America’s Bicentennial.

Then, at Super Bowl XXV, the halftime show began to evolve into what we know it to be today. The New Kids on the Block showcased intermission.

Baseball has been slow to get into all that production, although the national anthem can get turned into a patriotic celebration from time to time, and Fenway Park can rock pretty hard during the seventh-inning stretch – if, that is, you consider the entire stadium doing a singalong to “Sweet Caroline” to be a rock song.

And the 100th anniversary of the opening of Fenway was an amazing production, with as many living former Red Sox players (including our own former West Valley baseball coach Jack Spring) as they could find pouring out of the center field wall to take a spot on the field.

Sporting events have gotten very good at asking for a moment of silence in support of tragedies that have impacted our lives before offering something to take our minds off those tragedies for at least a few hours.

We saw that this fall at Freeman High. And just a few years ago at University after three students were killed in a car crash.

Players have gotten into the act. There are games where every team wears pink to make a statement of support for breast cancer research.

And that’s not even touching the concept of player protests.

A sporting event is nothing if not a grand stage designed for the entertainment of those in attendance. And it’s more than enough entertainment to merit showing up.

But sometimes it just seems like a waste to not use the game and the attention it draws for a greater purpose. To use the megaphone that comes with the game to do some good in the world.

It seems like every college basketball team has celebrated this last week with “Star Wars Night.” About all that was missing was to see Dick Vitale with a lightsaber and two sweet rolls strapped to the sides of his bald head.

And a number of programs use their platform as a way to affect the lives of the people in their own community. They stage food drives and a growing number of programs encourage, even insist, their players to volunteer to help out in the community.

Anyone who has seen the look on a young person’s face when they meet one of their heroes at a clinic or in a hospital understands just how important those interactions are – for both the player and the young person.

Coach Rick Jones had something different in mind for Tuesday’s West Valley girls basketball game with Freeman.

“We wanted to do something to promote cancer awareness,” he explained. “I know there was a whole month for that, but we weren’t playing basketball then. So, we’re having our own thing.”

The Eagles weren’t planning to have floats or marching bands with guest soloists involved, but they planned to have a speaker. And they planned to have information available on the importance of screening, symptoms to be aware of and other aspects of the fight against the insidious disease.

It’s what you do when you’re teaching young people to be responsible citizens of their community.

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