The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

May 21, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- Catastrophes make you stop and think

MORGANTOWN — The scenes have been gruesome, devastation everywhere, words flowing from the mouths of reporters that are as difficult to comprehend as are the images on the eyes.

The Oklahoma City area has been flattened by tornadoes, spinning funnels of death two miles wide reaching into the sky, removing whatever it is that is in its path, be it a stable filled with horses or a schoolhouse filled with children, innocent and frightened, trapped in the debris with heroic teachers laying atop the little ones, putting their own lives at risk for those lives of the children.

This, of course, is in Oklahoma, “Tornado Alley,” as it were. It is another world from our own in West Virginia, except that the reshaping of the world of collegiate sports has somehow placed the Mountaineer baseball team, which has had a tornado of a season of its own this year, in the midst of this disaster.

It was that on their minds when the tornado sirens started screeching, offering warning of the oncoming tornadoes but giving no hint if they would be upon the team itself.

Luckily, the storms slid by a few miles away, but the horrific nature of the destruction sprung them into action. Too often, in this world that is our own, our athletes are spoiled and self-centered, privileged in a world where maybe there are more important things than how hard you can throw a baseball or how fast you can run or how high you can jump.

This baseball team at West Virginia, though, is a special group, for they gathered together not before video of the Kansas pitcher they will face in the Big 12 Tournament, but to get on a team bus and drive into the area of destruction and offer their services for rescue.

That their offer to help was turned down did not detract from the genuine feelings they put forth for grade school kids buried in the rubble of an elementary school that was leveled or to do whatever it was they could at a time when lives as much as buildings were in ruins.

“As we are sitting here watching the devastation and trying to talk to the police in Moore (Okla.), the latest word is don’t come right now,” Coach Randy Mazey said on the radio. “There are so many families trying to come in that everything is blocked. We told them our team is on call if they need us.”

If you haven’t been involved in anything like this, it is difficult to imagine the magnitude.

“There’s so many suffering,” Mazey said. “You guys are not seeing what we are seeing.”

As someone who has seen such destruction and devastation, who has seen such suffering, let me say that it can’t do anything but eat at your heart.

On Oct. 17, 1989, I was among the thousands in Candlestick Park when the San Francisco earthquake hit, when the ground shook at 7.1 on the Richter scale. While it lasted only 15 seconds, it seemed like an eternity tucked under a desk in the stadium’s press area as the San Francisco Marina district, built on landfill, and the Nimitz Freeway were broken apart.

Sixty people died, and for the next couple of days were out among the injured and the homeless, toilets unable to flush, aftershocks leaving you grabbing for something sturdy, broken glass falling out of the windows of skyscrapers throughout the nights.

And if that were not enough for an itinerant sports writer, there was the day he had arrived in Montreal while traveling with the Cincinnati Reds, only to be awakened from a midafternoon nap by a phone call from a hysterical wife, screaming into the phone, “Bob, we just got hit by a tornado. I’ve got to go. The firemen are taking the kids away.”

And she hung up the phone. After getting my head together, I made plans to come home as soon as I could, an airline strike making it impossible to get out for a couple of days, but I did change rooms, room No. 1313 having proved to be hardly a lucky room.

As it was, the children were not injured, the imploding glass shards going over their heads as they played on the floor and them not being near the car that wound up upside down atop another car.

Those two events, however, were far more significant than sporting moments I ever covered, and it is why the reaction to this disaster of the WVU baseball team is hundreds of times more meaningful than any on-field heroics its athletic teams have been involved in.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • HERTZEL COLUMN- WVU faithful again have a reason to root against Vick

    It would be one final indignation, that’s what it would be if Michael Vick were to beat out Geno Smith and win the starting quarterback job with the New York Jets.

    April 23, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Luck open to WVU fans’ suggestions

    West Virginia’s fans have spoken, perhaps not verbally but nonetheless have had their voices heard, over the past few years as attendance has fallen at the Mountaineers’ football and basketball games.

    April 22, 2014

  • Mountaineers ready for slate of rivalry games

    Looking to put together a late-season run to get into the NCAA championships, West Virginia faces a pair of midweek rivalry games in a crucial five-game week coming off winning two of three games at Oklahoma.

    April 22, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Summer, Alabama will be used to get WVU’s mind right

    The ink had barely dried on the final reports out of West Virginia’s spring practice when thoughts turned forward toward the lazy, hazy days of late summer, days that will bring us into football season with a game that can either change the entire image of WVU football or sour it even further.

    April 21, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Watson tees off a new century at The Greenbrier

    You knew this was going to be one of those unpredictable, memorable days when you drove into the Greenbrier Resort and headed to the Old White Golf Course and found the best parking place in the joint.
    As Bob Uecker would say, right there in the front rooooow.

    April 20, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Jackie Robinson’s impact extends beyond baseball

    It is Jackie Robinson Day as I sit here writing this today, and I feel as though I am doing it in a world gone mad.
    Every player in Major League Baseball wore No. 42 on Tuesday in honor of Jackie Robinson, the man who took racism’s best shot and integrated the game that was known then as the National Pastime even though it was as white a Ku Klux Klan robe.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads