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Sports

Viewpoint: Game not about result

Northern Illinois University right fielder Danny Reed throws toward second as Notre Dame runner Ross Brezovsky speeds into the base in the third inning of their game at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago on Wednesday night. ERIC SUMBERG | esumberg@daily-chronicle.com
Northern Illinois University right fielder Danny Reed throws toward second as Notre Dame runner Ross Brezovsky speeds into the base in the third inning of their game at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago on Wednesday night. ERIC SUMBERG | esumberg@daily-chronicle.com

Notre Dame and former Northern Illinois baseball coach Dave Schrage moved along just fine until both teams stood at home plate for a moment of silence to honor the victims of the Feb. 14 NIU campus shootings. "That's when it really hit me," Schrage said. "And I was glad we were able to do this." Northern Illinois and Notre Dame played baseball on Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. But the result, a tough 5-4 loss for the Huskies, won't be the first thing remembered when people look back on this game. This was about a university and a community coming together again to remember the past and push toward the future. "(NIU President) Dr. (John) Peters said it great," said NIU coach Ed Mathey. "He said 'This (the shootings) won't define us,' This is our chance to show that." In front of 4,600 people, the Huskies did exactly that. Sports so often are looked at as a healing ground, a distraction and a way to forget about the past. While that's true, the feeling lasts a few days at most, after which the important work begins all over again. The men's basketball team provided that distraction for a few thousand people in February. The baseball team did the same on Wednesday. Both games don't resemble much more than big footnotes in the healing process, but it remains important to use events like Wednesday to remind ourselves that NIU isn't back to normal quite yet. But it's getting there. On this night, the words we've heard so often in two months like heal, recover and forward were given a sound unheard of in this process of moving past Feb. 14. The memories of tears replaced by the sounds of cheers. And not just polite applause after a solid play. This was the real whooping and hollering that made a near-empty U.S. Cellular Field come alive at times. The memories of sheer horror replaced by the ping of the ball meeting bat and the thwack of a leather-smacked tag. The running of students from classrooms in fear replaced by the running of student-athletes to break up a double play. These temporary replacements in the long term serve as short steps forward. Meaningful and important steps, but short ones. "This night is definitely bigger than baseball," junior shortstop Bobby Stevens said. "We're happy to do our part." The Huskies accomplished moving forward a few steps Wednesday, and they have the Chicago White Sox to thank. The White Sox organization set the standard for professional teams reacting to a crisis. Its swift, continuous response to aid NIU in whatever way possible should be commended and never forgotten. The White Sox didn't have to do a thing after Feb. 14, and yet Wednesday night they played host to the Huskies in their home park. In addition to playing host to the game, the White Sox have raised $10,000 in an auction and a donation that went to the NIU Feb. 14 scholarship fund. All the proceeds from the game went to the fund as well. Other organizations talk about helping others. The White Sox spoke with actions and to this point have done the right thing by not making a big deal out of it and letting their charitable actions speak for themselves. "The Sox, to me, have been on the forefront of professional sports teams helping us," Mathey said. "And there has been a lot of support." And maybe all the support given to NIU will spawn good, lasting memories out of this. Memories everyone involved in Wednesday night's event can take home and hold onto. We don't know for sure yet, but that might be the best reason to keep holding events like this. "I think this is a great night," said senior outfielder Jeff Thomas. "A good night of baseball and a good night to have fun. I'm going to tell my kids about this."

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