Much respect

All sports events in Italy this weekend were suspended in tribute to Pope John Paul II, who died Saturday night while thousands kept vigil in St. Peter’s Square and the faithful around the world reflected on his legacy.

“It was the only decision to be taken,” said Gianni Petrucci, president of Italy’s Olympic Committee….

The coaches of soccer powers AC Milan and Juventus on Friday had urged that no games be played in view of the pope’s worsening condition. “It’s fair that the sport is stopped … there are more important things than soccer,” Cagliari captain Gianfranco Zola said.

I very much admire the willingness of European athletes, especially soccer players, to demonstrate to their fans that there are more important things than sport. Keep in mind that Milan and Juve are tied for the Serie A lead at 66 points apiece with only a few games remaining in the season, and Milan was scheduled to play Brescia, the worst team in the league, yesterday. And earlier this year, when a player’s infant daughter unexpectedly died right before a La Liga match in Spain and it was too late to cancel the game, the two teams took the field as was required but refused to play, to demonstrate their sympathy for the bereaved player.

Not only were the fans not upset by watching ninety minutes of the two teams simply passing the ball back and forth, but instead, as the players walked off the field at the end of the game, they were saluted with applause.

Sports are great. I love NFL football, Serie A calcio, the English Premiership and FIFA soccer. But it is good when we are reminded, from time to time, that in the end, they are only games and money, nothing more.