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Many in sporting world reach out to Japan

by Jason Coskrey

One can only imagine the thoughts going through the minds of the athletes from Miyagi Prefecture’s two major sports teams, Nippon Professional Baseball’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and Velgata Sendai from the J. League, right now.

They may be trying to focus on the task at hand in their sports, but in reality their hearts and minds are probably back in the Tohoku region.

It’s sometimes easy to forget — given their often other-worldly exploits on the field — that athletes are regular people with families and friends who may have been effected by the recent disaster in Japan.

Despite the money, fame and adoration that comes with professional sports, soccer, baseball, golf, basketball and all the others are just games.

They can, however, serve a purpose. Because the same passion that encourages thousands to pour into stadiums and arenas everyday can also be channeled into a massive outpouring of good-will.

Japan’s two most popular teams, the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers, are donating all the revenue from their spring game in Gifu Monday to relief efforts.

Meanwhile, the Chunichi Dragons are donating ¥1 million and other NPB teams are trying to figure out how they can help.

From abroad, the New York Yankees have donated $100,000 to relief efforts. Also the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners are trying to organize a fundraising event to coincide with the teams’ MLB season-opening series.

In Europe, Norway’s gold-medal winning team from the biathlon world championships announced they would donate their winnings (10,000 euro) to the cause.

Norway’s national body later announced it would match that total with a contribution of its own.

The much-praised use of social networking sites to relay information has also spread to the sporting world.

The Eagles are using Twitter to inform residents when their stadium will be open for cell phone charging, restrooms, etc.

San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson, who recorded the final out of the 2010 World Series, used the site to say, “Let’s step up and text ‘redcross’ to 90999. It’s only 10 bucks and it would be rad to throw a little help over to Japan. Tokyo also has the GIANTS.”

Whether it’s a high school soccer match or a professional baseball contest, games are games and sometimes real life has to take precedence.

Sports are often cited as welcome distraction or way to return a sense of normalcy during times of strife.

What sports can also do, however, is be used as a rallying cry.

As the NPB, MLB, Wilson and the Norwegian athletes have shown, the games may not matter, but athletes can still deliver a message that does.