Suitor: How music and sports can help the healing process

Glen Suitor
7/24/2012 10:58:43 AM
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He is just an athlete, but when Peyton Manning walked on the stage at a concert in Denver on Saturday night, it was once again an example of how sports and or music, can be such a positive influence in a community, especially, at this time, in a city like Denver, that is trying to come to grips with such a senseless tragedy. 

The concert was Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney, at the Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver and it was just a few days after a mentally disturbed 24-year-old man allegedly walked into a movie theater heavily armed in Aurora Colorado, killing 12 people and injuring many more.

A day before the theater shooting rampage, a friend of mine from Regina said that he had an extra ticket to the concert, if I could make it, which is how I ended up in Denver on Saturday night. It was a night I will never forget.

An emotionally charged crowd, still reeling from this tragedy, was inspired by two country singers and a pro football player, to begin the healing process, and to stick together through the adversity and the sadness that the entire community was facing. 

Tim McGraw was the first headliner to hit the stage and with the jammed packed stadium, he quietly walked up to a mic to address the crowd.

In an emotional hello, he spoke of the senseless killings that occurred just days earlier, asked that everyone take time to pray for the families involved in the tragedy, and said he hoped that a night of music could in someway start the healing process in the Denver community.

It was amazing to feel the emotion at Mile High when he spoke, and then proceeded to put his heart and soul into every song that he sung on that stage. I have seen McGraw live many times before, but this show was different, this performance was for the people whose lives changed in a second at that movie theater in Aurora.

As McGraw set continued I watch people arm-in-arm swaying to the music, hugging each other and slow dancing in their seat to every song no matter what the tempo, there was a healing process going on as fans buried themselves in the music.  

It was impossible to not get caught up in the emotion even though I was a visitor from another country and as McGraw's set came to an end, and people were waiting to see Kenny Chesney next, I could see and tell by the conversations I had with complete strangers, that music was helping them cope with something that no one could or probably ever will be able to get their head around.

Then it was Kenny Chesney's turn on stage and he put on a show with the same energy and, deep down from the heart emotion, as McGraw in a set that highlighted his upbeat summer tunes to possibly help take this audience away from their current reality, and it culminated in one of the most emotional moments that I have ever witnessed.

As Chesney finished singing his song, The Boys of Fall, which is a song about playing football and what it means to be on a football team, and part of that family, and what the game means to the community, out walks one of the newest members of the Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning. That very same day Manning had made personal phone calls to the families of the victims of the shooting in the hospital, to try and help in any way he could.

The stadium erupted and the emotion and sheer volume was louder than I have heard at any event. Moments earlier, as Chesney sang his football song, it was tough to find a dry eye in the house. It is not a new song but for a city that was saddened by this tragedy, it was a song that moved people, and then, as the last few notes were being played on the guitar, out walked the man that will give their football team, and in extension, the people of Denver hope. Yes Manning is just a football player, but the intensity in the stadium was electric, it was a moment that I don't think that anyone who was there to see it live will ever forget.

The Boys of Fall is also about the commitment to the guy beside you in the room and how if you stick together there is always hope. On this night when a community was looking for something to believe in again, they saw an all-star quarterback walk out at the end of this song, he didn't say a word, he didn't have to, the message his visit sent transcended football and music.

Football is a major part of this city and State. It is a city in mourning, and Manning on this night represented, even if just symbolically, that hope.

As I sat and watched thousands of people file out of the stadium I couldn't help but reflect on what I had just experienced, and so many things went through my mind. First there was that renewed perspective on life that people often get when senseless acts of violence occur in our society, that reminds you to enjoy the journey because you never know.

There was also this sense of being uplifted and inspired by a night of music and the presence of a star athlete. I started thinking about the start to the CFL season and the new stadium projects that are beginning in almost all CFL cities and the bigger picture as to what those new projects will mean to their communities.

The same experience and journey that I had just gone through, can and has happened when attending a live sporting event like a football game. At times especially when the home team struggles a football game will be less than memorable and will be forgotten the moment the team plays the following week.

But when it is right, when it has you up out of your seat on more than one occasion, when it is an example of determination, leadership, or maybe the resilience to continue on through tough odds, it is an experience that you won't be able to duplicate.

It can be a moment you share with your family, or a mother or father shares with a son or daughter, or it can be a three or four hour journey with a good friend. You are surrounded by people with a common interest, in a sporting event, the united loyalty of the home team, or in a concert, the love of music.

When you have thousands of people in the same place, going through the same emotional ride, it is intensified to a level that just can't be duplicated. 

In the CFL this year we have already seen some great comebacks, like the Montreal/Calgary game two weeks ago or last weekends game in Calgary where the Stamps erased a 17-point deficit in the last eight minutes or so to win against the Riders. A game where Calgary quarterback Kevin Glenn, after being the lightning rod of criticism all week, got up off the carpet and lead his team to victory.

There has also been some historic moments, like when Geroy Simon in front of a home crowd in B.C., became the all-time leader in receiving yards.

None of these games matched the magnitude of emotion that was experienced in Denver, but they are smaller examples of the power of sport or the power of music.

After seeing Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney take thousands on a journey they will never forget, I now again understand why attending a sporting event or concert live is so important. When it is right, it creates a memory that will last a lifetime, and a bond with a friend or family member that is strengthened by the experience.

McGraw and Chesney took thousands on emotional ride that ranged from tears of reflection, to cheers of pure excitement. Manning's appearance reminded everyone of the importance of the home team, and how maybe a quarterback and a couple of singers can provide hope to a community and help a city recover from a terrible tragedy.

A sporting event can do the same thing and to completely understand how, you have to be there in person.

Live events where people in the community come together,can have such a positive impact. A sporting event or a concert are important because they unite us and on Saturday night in Denver, they helped a city begin the healing process.

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