Field of Play: A sanctuary of celebration | Sports | CBC Sports

Field of Play: A sanctuary of celebration

Posted: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 | 11:53 AM

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A runner near Kenmore Square appears dismayed during the 117th Boston Marathon on Monday. (Alex Trautwig/Getty Images) A runner near Kenmore Square appears dismayed during the 117th Boston Marathon on Monday. (Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

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We not only mourn the tragic loss of life in the Boston Marathon bombings, but also the fact that that our cherished refuge on the field of play is being threatened.

Just when I thought it was safe to say that sport and the playing fields represent our final refuge, the tragedy of the Boston marathon occurs.

I can remember running the race in 2005, knowing that my wife Catherine was waiting for me at the finish line to greet and comfort me after the ordeal, but also to mark one of life's great victories.

Along the way, I discovered something about myself and why I wanted to get there. 

As the many supporters cheered me on, including members of a notorious motorcycle gang, students at a girls' prep school and fans who had emerged from the Boston Red Sox game, I realized they were there to bear witness to human achievement and all that we are capable of.

To think that someone would set out to destroy that is inconceivable. To understand that a unifying and peaceful place could be overcome by fear is heartbreaking.

This past weekend, I had witnessed the arrival of the FIFA World Cup winner's trophy -- making its lone Canadian appearance at a Toronto soccer pitch -- and attended a ceremony honouring the province of Ontario's most distinguished coaches, then I watched the final round of the Masters from Augusta, Ga.

I'm not normally an avid spectator of golf, but the spirit of the story captivated me: in the pouring rain, two rivals and comrades at the height of their powers playing a game and revelling in honest competition; a winner and a loser, a heartfelt embrace and the joy of the onlookers who had seen history made.

It was sport, pure and simple.

'Aura around it'

There was, on this eventful weekend, something to aspire to, someone to show us the way and the enduring thrill of the match. Encompassed in it all was a universal language that we could all understand. We have a place to explore our possibilities when we attempt to find the magic of play. It's ominous to understand that we should ever feel threatened in such circumstances.

At Monarch Park Stadium, hundreds of school kids thought they were getting a special morning to work on their soccer skills. Then, direct from Zurich, the World Cup winner's trophy showed up and the ensuing rush to get close to the coveted prize was quite remarkable.

"It's the world's most recognized trophy, the world's most cherished trophy," said Monique Giroux of CIBC, the FIFA World Cup sponsor who made the arrangements. "It brings the passion out of Canadians as they celebrate their heritage."

And the young players who flocked to have their pictures taken with the trophy were all born in this country, but there will be no Canadian team to cheer for in Brazil next summer. Still, they had their faces painted with the flags of their favourite teams and dreamed of winning the World Cup, nonetheless.

"Every person who wants to play professional soccer aspires to holding that trophy one day," said 16-year-old Gage Angelo, whose mother is Portuguese. "It has this aura around it that makes you say, 'Wow!' I want that one day."

At the Ontario Coaching Excellence Awards, I met mentors and enablers from across the province making it possible for young people to benefit from sport. Among those honoured was a bowling coach from Kingston, Ont., an equestrian instructor who teaches disabled kids to ride and a 60-year-old gymnastics guru named Suren Torosyants from Mississauga, Ont. 

Russian born and once a circus performer, Torosyants is beloved by the students at his club and they were in attendance to loudly cheer as he proudly stepped up to accept his award as the "Trailblazer" coach of the year.

'Not much there'

On the subject of the Masters, I was intrigued by a neighbour who told me he'd lost interest because Tiger Woods was no longer in contention.

"There's not much there," he shrugged as we worked away in our respective backyards.

I turned it on anyway, only to catch the head-to-head confrontation between Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera. There was the thumbs-up exchange and the unspoken respect and the mystique of the green jacket. Not once did the announcer mention how big the winner's cheque would be.

It wasn't about money. It was about sport and the irresistible attraction of competition -- and it was riveting.

This is why the tragedy of Boston is, ultimately, so frightening and disturbing. Our safe place is under siege.

We should have a forum to be free and gather in celebration. The fields of play are meant to be our sanctuary to run and jump and throw as far as we possibly can and to learn over and over again what it means to be alive.

This is partly what we mourn the day after the Boston marathon. The tragic loss of life is paramount and we grieve as human beings. 

But in addition, our cherished refuge on the fields of play is being threatened.

Follow Scott Russell on Twitter @SportsWkndScott and @TheFieldofPlay 

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