Between the Lines: A Path to Peace

This month I’m on my way to Oakville, Ontario, to attend the annual conference of the International Sports Heritage Association (ISHA), a fraternity of 130 sports museums and halls of fame from all over the globe. One topic I plan on addressing with my colleagues stems from an article in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated that focused on the burgeoning notion that sports might be on the verge of playing an important role in securing and maintaining world peace for generations to come!

At first, the idea might seem sophomoric, almost silly. But the more you think about it, the more the concept resonates. With few exceptions –the 1972 Olympic basketball game between the USSR and USA being one- sporting events on the international stage have been hugely harmonious, demonstrating that athletes from all sorts of political/economic/ethnic backgrounds can compete, even-keeled, as good, fair-handed sportspersons all.

The SI article examined youth-sports initiatives in a number of developing and challenged countries, noting how athletic programs, stressing hard work and team work, were helping kids to achieve a more positive perspective of themselves, and of their communities. As these initiatives mount and take hold, the end result might be that a kid from some dust-choked field in Afghanistan winds up playing against some kid from a hardscrabble street in Brooklyn in a round of World Cup soccer.

That would certainly be a more positive interaction than Afghans and Americans currently experience.

Good sportsmanship is something all cultures accept and embrace. Athletic competition is governed by rules and regulations that are universally understood. Along with music, mathematics…and love, sports might be one of the few things the whole world can truly and enthusiastically embrace.

So that’s what I plan on discussing at the International Sports Heritage gathering, how sports might be a path to peace, and how ISHA might collaborate to promote an idea whose game-clock is just beginning to tick, tick, tick.

Thanks, Sports Illustrated! Full Article

Mike Gibbons is the executive director for the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation, Inc.