Football therapeutic during tragedy


Death tends to put things in perspective, even when we don’t ask for it.

It teaches us that the big things aren’t so big and in times of need, it’s important to appreciate the small things that typically get overlooked.

Our campus community was dealt a cruel and unfair blow last Wednesday morning, when two of our own, Ying Wu and Ming Qu, were tragically murdered outside a home in the West Adams area.

Distraction · In a time of turmoil and despair around the USC campus, the spring game provided a brief getaway for all the fans in attendance. - Corey Marquetti | Daily Trojan

Now, I didn’t know my two fallen peers. We never shared a class, a smile or even a parting glance. But what we did share was something far greater.

It was the bond of being a Trojan.

And as Trojans, we usually turn to football to find some much-needed soup for the soul.

After almost a week of collective mourning, the USC community did what it does best in the face of unwarranted circumstances: It began to pick up the pieces.

Though the annual scrimmage typically serves as an open exhibition for one and all to get a taste of what next year’s squad will look like, this year the stakes were much higher.

This year the game was worth much more. It was a rallying point for all who passed through the turnstiles.

Sure, Lane Kiffin’s coaching staff used the time wisely to evaluate what certainly looks like a top-five-caliber program entering next fall’s season, but to be perfectly honest, this inter-squad contest wasn’t about X’s and O’s, starters and backups, and winners or losers.

The scoreboard may have read as if the white team was victorious, but every member in attendance, from the players to the coaching staff to the stadium attendants, felt a sigh of relief at the game’s conclusion. For a few hours, football provided members of this community a chance to let go, a chance to get lost in something other than a DPS report or newspaper headline.

It was a candlelight vigil, a therapy session and a memorial service all in one, played out on a 100-yard field among the people who needed it most.

On this campus, the wounds of this latest tragedy are still fresh. Whether you knew the victims on a personal level or whether you read about them for the first time last week, they are and will continue to be a part of you, because they were Trojans.

Sports — in good times and in bad — reveal character. And Saturday was no exception.

It didn’t really matter if senior quarterback Matt Barkley connected with sophomore receiver Marqise Lee in the end zone, or whether sophomore runningback D.J. Morgan or senior runningback Curtis McNeal rushed for more than 100 yards. For one day, sport was not intended to delight but rather to alleviate.

The 2012 spring game should be remembered not for the stingy effort put out by the defensive unit, but by the strength in numbers put out by the Trojan community.

It was a celebration, for past and present, of what it means to belong to this close-knit university family. It was a celebration of life’s unyielding potential and even in the face of harrowing events, a celebration of slowly moving on.

No one can predict how long the grieving process will take, but if we learned anything from one another this weekend, it’s that as fans, as friends and as members of the Trojan Family, the process is not endured by one but by many.

Losing someone, whether it’s a classmate, a colleague or a loved one, teaches us that there is more to life than the outcome of a game of football, whether it’s played on a brisk Saturday in April or a warm Monday night in January.

But to all of us who have been touched by the power of sports, be it after Sept. 11, after a personal hardship or the hardship we all had to come to terms with this past week, death teaches us that the little things in life, like a spring football scrimmage, have a magical way of letting us know that it’s OK to continue fighting on.

 

“For the Love of the Game” runs Wednesdays. If you would like to comment on this story, email Dave at dulberg@usc.edu or comment below.