Some years ago, a member of my family told me they thought sports had become too important in today's society.
At the time, I was working at the college newspaper and was three months from graduating. I was sports editor of the paper, and always writing, talking, thinking sports.
Needless to say, this angered me since I took it as someone saying what I was doing wasn't important.
Tonight, I can't help but wonder if this person had a point.
In the last three weeks, there have been three tragedies dominating the news. Two involving sports almost directly. The other not.
But in each case, I couldn't help but wonder if the bubble in which sports exists (one where I make my living) has become a force that prevents us from seeing what's really going on in the world.
Two weeks ago, a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, Jovan Belcher, shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, the mother of his child. Then he went to the Chiefs' training facility and shot himself in front of Chiefs' personnel, including head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli.
There are so many things about this that are horrifying. But here are a few that I've noticed, apart from the obvious:
* People have been calling this the "Jovan Belcher murder/suicide," but Perkins' name seems secondary in much of the coverage.
* One of the first questions I kept hearing that Saturday was "Are the Chiefs going to play tomorrow?," as if that was the biggest issue.
* Everyone feels for Crennel, a former Browns coach and by all accounts a great man, and have given him credit for keeping his team together. But has anyone asked what the response from the league would
have been if Crennel or Pioli had went to the NFL and told it the Chiefs wouldn't be able to play?
Truthfully, this is only really a national story because Belcher played professional sports. If he had been a grocer or a banker, the story would have made local and regional news.
So is it nationally notable because it's sports-related?
It was less than a week later when there was another tragedy involving NFL players. Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent and his friend Jerry Brown - a member of the team's practice squad - were involved in an accident Dec. 8 that took Brown's life. Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter. About 36 hours later, their teammates were in Cincinnati playing the Bengals.
I didn't hear one person suggest delaying or postponing the game.
Then on Friday, there was the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 28 people - 20 of them children - dead.
It likely will go down as one of the biggest tragedies in our nation's history.
And yet, despite tweets of prayers and support from players, coaches, media members and others, the sports world plowed on, unaffected in its scheduling, except for a moment of silence before each game.
The games may keep going, but the suffering from these tragedies may never end.
There's no right answer to this. Is it realistic for sports to stop every time a tragedy occurs? No.
But sports has been stopped before. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NFL, MLB and most of college football shut down for about a week. Even then, some argued the games should be played.
You hear it every time something happens.
Life goes on.
Sports is a diversion, a pastime that takes our minds off more serious things.
But even as someone who makes a living off athletics, I have to ask this question:
Is sports a diversion from life or is life a diversion from sports?
If anyone believes the latter, perhaps that family member was right.
Sports have become too important.