I think everyone that identifies themselves as a sports fan has heard the same rhetoric before - "It's just a game". Honestly, there's probably not a more frustrating phrase when you are experiencing second hand highs and lows that are characteristic of the latest crackhead on 'Intervention'. After all, the phenomenon of being so emotionally invested in the outcome of something we aren't even participating in is nearly impossible to explain to someone that doesn't feel the same way about sports. To us, having our entire mood effected by a bunch of strangers tossing around a ball or passing around a puck couldn't feel more right. In terms of rationale, however, the people that look at us like lunatics when we go from high-fiving and hugging to drowning our sorrows with the nearest alcoholic beverage in a matter of seconds are undoubtedly right in doing so. It's just extremely rare that a sports fan wins a logic based argument on the true importance of sports. That is, until moments like this happen...
You see, "it's just a game" doesn't explain what we saw last night. Dee Gordon stepping up to the plate, after 303 at bats without a home run, and blasting a leadoff solo shot in the first inning of a game dedicated to a fallen teammate is what? Merely a coincidence? A circumstantial product of boys being boys? Is anyone really prepared to argue that "it's just a game" as a grown man rounds the bases weeping thus bringing a tear to the eye of every single person watching him?
I have a little familiarity with games, seeing as I have been playing them since since I was sitting around in diapers literally trying to smash square pegs in round holes. Games don't feel like they are scripted by some supernatural power. A game could never truly pay tribute to a life prematurely lost. Games don't move people the way last night's events moved people. Games don't help their participants understand how fragile life can be. Games don't begin the healing process. José Fernández may be gone now, but are you really going to tell me the thing that familiarized us with the ridiculously perseverant story of such a jubilant, appreciative kid was just a game? In many (all) ways, what we saw last night transcended sports. However, in many ways what we saw last night is a prime example of what makes us infatuated by sports. Sometimes they are about so, so much more than just a game, and I highly doubt I would get an argument from the Marlins.
R.I.P. José Fernández