Sports are more than just games

At their core, sports are about winning and losing.

But, more than that, the games we play – and we need to remember that they’re just games – are vehicles for teaching life lessons and instilling in all of us the many values which we all hold dear.

Teamwork, desire, humility, humbleness, graciousness, unselfishness, tenacity, fairness.

These are just some of those values. And they all could, and should, be used when talking about four of the biggest sports stories of the last few days.

Too often, we get swept up in the ”negative” news of the day. In the age of social media and our TMZed culture, more often than not the ”bad” news seem to grab all the headlines in the 24/7 newscycle in which we live.

That changed the past few days with the Spurs victory in the NBA Finals, the United States’ triumph in their opening game of the World Cup, and the deaths of former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll and ex-San Diego Padres great Tony Gwynn.

Now, it’s hard to call anyone’s death good news. But what the passings of two of sports giants did was shine the light on people that made a difference, worked hard, inspired others, and, at least for a few days, tuned out all the negativity that can many times permeate the sports media landscape.

In these parts, Noll was revered like maybe no other coach. He came to the Steel City in the late 1960s and turned around, not only a football team, but a community.

Starting basically from scratch, Noll, along with the Rooney braintrust, carefully put together the pieces of an organization that went on to claim four Super Bowl championships in the 1970s. Noll set the tone for the Steelers, a tone that still reverberates throughout the organization today.

From the moment he passed, tributes started pouring in. Former players, assistant coaches, scouts, opponents, you name it, everyone had nothing but good things to say about what Noll meant to the Steelers, the city of Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania, and the National Football League.

The same types of accolades poured in Monday when news broke of the death of Gwynn, a 2007 Hall of Fame inductee who was taken far too soon at age 54 after battling oral cancer.

”Mr. Padre” was a legend in San Diego, not only for his play on the field, but for his actions off it. The tributes to one of baseball’s best hitters ever were long and well-deserved.

And the time spent on the impact Gwynn by all members of the sports media was refreshing.

Too was the performance exhibited by the San Antonio Spurs in winning the franchise’s fifth NBA championship.

In dethroning the two-time defending champion Miami Heat in five games, Coach Gregg Popovich’s unit exhibited complete teamwork. Led by Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and soft-spoken Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio proved simple hoops fundamentals get it done in today’s NBA.

The fans loved it, many of whom found the Spurs’ approach refreshing in contrast to Miami’s sometimes showtime attitude.

The United States men’s soccer team put on quite a show of its own Monday in topping Ghana, 2-1, to open World Cup play.

From Maine to Oregon, American pride was on full display as the USA got off to one of its best World Cup starts ever.

The four aforementioned stories are proof there’s still plenty of room for the good in sports. We just need to open the door and let it in a little bit more and close the blinds on the other stuff.

Thorp can be reached at rthorp@timesleaderonline.com