Hurricane Matthew puts sports world in proper perspective

col-tbuzz-2I am writing this from my back porch on a perfect autumn night by moon and candle light. No electricity. No WiFi. Spotty cell phone reception. County-wide curfew with nothing to do, all thanks to last weekend’s unwelcome visit from Hurricane Matthew.

The combination of darkness and silence sharpen the senses: Ashes crackle in my fire pit and give off an oaky aroma of sticks that were still standing 48 hours earlier; the dull drone of generators whirring from the homes of better prepared neighbors; the distant sound of waves crashing on a battered beach; and the familiar call of our resident hoot owls signaling that they too survived the storm and will continue to make their home on this sometimes dangerous but always beautiful stretch of the Carolina coast.

OK, so this isn’t much of a sports column, but the events of the past few days have put my passion for the games in proper perspective. All of us who live on the Grand Strand have been through this hurricane drill before, so Matthew’s all-too predictable arrival just in time to ruin another high school football Friday night was no big surprise. Simply play the games on Thursday and get on to dealing with the bad weather later. But that didn’t happen this time, not with Horry County Schools closing and evacuations called for those living closest to the coast. This one was serious.

On a normal fall Friday I am frantically trying to keep track of as many as six football games. This time I was focused on The Weather Channel and trying to guess if Matthew would go deep or run a double reverse. In between, I locked up bikes and surfboards discarded in the yard after a long summer, stood in line at the grocery store behind waves of hurricane rookies buying up all the bread and batteries, and most of all, hoping that I had made the right decision to stay and ride out the storm. Not so much for me. I’m a (mumble mumble) year old man too set in my ways to sit around a hurricane shelter or an overpriced hotel room when I should be looking out for my homestead. But leaving my loved ones in harm’s way was heavy.

Once the storm arrived I almost felt a sense of relief. We knew where it was going, we had done everything we could do to prepare, and with any luck we would experience another near-miss. I was just about ready for some college football when we lost power and decided the best way to ride out the storm was to sleep through it. The nap lasted as long as it took for the winds to start whistling through the swaying trees, creating occasional thumps and thuds as oaks, cedars and pines snapped all around us. One landed on our roof, and I watched in fear as another fell in slow motion and barely missed our house and van. I spent the final two hours of the storm begging for it to end, but the backside winds persisted and intensified.

Once Matt finally heeded my hopes and headed out to sea, our neighbors emerged from their bunkers and came out to the pitch-black streets with flashlights and rain boots. We eased past fallen trees and downed power lines to survey the damage as best we could and make sure everyone who stayed was accounted for. Despite the stressful day and the blackout conditions, I couldn’t sleep that night. The sun came up and revealed a scene resembling a war zone, but it also illuminated something more uplifting. My neighbors rallied around one another with chain saws and wheel barrows, spending the entire day making sure everyone was safe and sound. For all the damage Matthew did to our property, he also restored my faith in the human spirit.

The local sports world has been put on hold from all the fallout of the storm, but the games eventually will go on and our lives will return to some semblance of normalcy. But for all the inconvenience caused by the hurricane, it also provided a much-needed reminder about what’s really important. The welcome sights of Friday night lights and all the other games will be a little bit sweeter when they return.

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