Sports is a microcosm of our society. You'll read those words from me a lot. As a former athlete that competed on the collegiate level, I understand the intimacy of sports to the greater universe, of how the lessons learned from it is a reflection of us as a society.
For those who follow me on social media, or those who know me enough to ask, I posted or verbally gave updates on then Hurricane Florence as it made landfall basically in Wilmington, North Carolina, which is about 45 minutes away from my hometown. It hit the mainland as a Category 1, but two days prior, it was a Category 4. That prompted a mandatory evacuation of the Carolinas coastline. And just like Matthew two years earlier, the devastation was caused by flooding, putting towns under water and wiping out major highways such Interstate 95.
What does that have to do with sports besides all of the football games and other athletic events that were canceled or postponed in North Carolina due to Florence?
Coastal Carolina University’s address is technically Conway, South Carolina. The campus is exactly one hour away from my mother’s doorstep. But for simplicity sake, Coastal is located in Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach was one of the cities where its residents were mandated to get out of Dodge. This included the students at CCU — it included the student-athletes at CCU as well.
CCU’s football team, currently completing its transition to FBS and the Sun Belt Conference, moved its game from Conway to their opponent’s campus, Campbell University, in Buies Creek, North Carolina and played the game on a Wednesday. Players, coaches, family members, even pets, left Buies Creek and traveled to Jacksonville, Florida where they have been up until now as they have a road game against Louisiana in Lafayette Saturday.
CCU’s men’s soccer team went on a “retreat” (the word used on its Twitter account) to Orlando, Florida. The women’s soccer team played their schedule match in Georgia and will be in Alabama tonight. The volleyball team posted this message, in part, to its Facebook page:
“Unfortunately, we were not able to stay together during the mandatory evacuation. We worked tirelessly to evacuate to Dallas, Miami, or Pittsburgh, but because of other people booking last minute flights, plus numerous flights out of Myrtle Beach and Charleston getting canceled, we found no way to keep the team together. … Most of our team returned home and will stay there for the duration of the evacuation.”
The story of Coastal Carolina’s athletics is symbolic. Florence, Matthew before it, Katrina before it and Typhoon Mangkhut’s imprint has nothing to do with the wind that categorizes these storms. It is the aftermath, it is the trail of displaced families these storms leave in its wake — even sports families.
“As important as our games are, and clearly they are critical to us, the priority has been the safety of our players and our coaches and their families,” said CCU’s head football coach Joe Moglia as reported by the Sun News out of Myrtle Beach.
You’re never going to remain undefeated. That’s a part of life. That’s a part of being an athlete. Storms such as Florence is just another opponent that may beat us, but can’t let it break us.
“It's getting a little frustrating, but you have to deal with it and roll with the punches. It's just another hurdle to get over in life,” said evacuee Roberta Keithley as reported by the Associated Press.
As far as my family, my hometown’s downtown sustained flooding as the water from the nearby swamp overtook the streets. My mother and the home was unscathed.
Chris Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @ChrisHarris_DLJ