There is a tendency in this country to assign Superman status to the stars of our sports. It is as if they are a higher species, not like the rest of us. The truth is they are just like us. They are human beings. They have emotions. They have feelings. They laugh when we laugh. They cry when we cry.
No better example exists than in the aftermath of the horrible high school shooting in Parkland, Fla. When the news reached Mesa, Ariz., spring training home of the Chicago Cubs, first baseman Anthony Rizzo packed a bag and headed home.
Rizzo grew up in Parkland, played baseball at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, went to classes in the same building where rooms were bathed in blood after 17 people died in the horrific attack. On the day after the senseless slaughter, he spoke with tears in his eyes at a memorial service for the victims of the unimaginable violence.
And in that moment, Rizzo was no longer a baseball star wearing a world championship ring on his hand. Instead, he was one of us, hurting terribly for the victims, broken by the senseless attack that had invaded the place he once called home.
He said all the right things. We all do. But you have to wonder how much good the words do. In Parkland, they are burying the dead, kids just figuring out who they were, just building the dreams for their futures.
Anthony Rizzo was one of those kids once, A high school baseball star, so good there and later at Florida Atlantic University that he got to live out his dreams. He is a major league star, a member of the 2015 world championship Cubs. He lived the American dream. But what about the dreams of those kids at Parkland who are being buried now?
Rizzo clearly was hurting as he spoke. You could see it in his face. You could hear it in his voice. “I am who I am because of this community,’’ he said. “And I just want all of you to know how proud I am to come from this community. I want all of you to know you are not alone in your grief. We are all grieving with you. The entire country is grieving with you.
“I promise you we are going to be mourning, grieving and a bit broken for a while. We’re human … We have to be there for each other. We have to cope with our pain and we have to live each other’s pain.’’
There was raw emotion in his voice and in his message, a sadness that simply consumed Rizzo just as it did the rest of us. It is what makes us a caring, compassionate nation, a nation that, like Anthony Rizzo, feels the pain that consumes the community of Parkland, Fla. after the horror of gun violence invaded its community.
And you have to wonder, where will it happen next? Who is the next star who, like Anthony Rizzo, must rush home to provide comfort to the place where he grew up, to a place plunged into misery by somebody wielding a weapon.