The Gulf Coast Oil Disaster's Effect on the Sports World: A Meditation

Joseph BurkeyAnalyst IJune 18, 2010

GRAND ISLE, LA - JUNE 16: A mock cemetery highlights what�s been lost for the beach communities on the Gulf of Mexico following the BP oil spill June 16, 2010 in Grand Isle, Louisiana. Following a meeting with President Obama, BP announced that they will finance a $20 billion fund to compensate individuals whose jobs and incomes have been affected by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP also announced that they would forgo paying out their annual dividends to shareholders in order to finance the Gulf oil spill. The BP spill has been called the largest environmental disaster in American history. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The world of sports does not exist in a vacuum. It shares the planet with politics, economics, religion, sociology, and just about every other 'ology' mankind knows.

That planet is not well these days; the earth is bleeding.

The sadness brought on by the oil disaster in the Caribbean may have only just begun; and as the powers that be sit on their asses and point fingers as if figuring who's at fault is finding a solution, the news just keeps getting worse.

Sports is a sanctuary for escapists in times like these, a welcome diversion from painful reality. This tragedy, however, will spill into our asylum and blacken even our holiest of getaways. If humanity doesn't get a handle on the situation soon, the black tide could crawl up the bayou, around to the East Coast and Gulf Coast, and drift throughout the entire Caribbean—to each and every island and beach.



Many people don't think of fishing as a sport, but rather an exercise in a survival skill older than man. Sure, competitive bass pros have their place, but fishing is a sport that almost any individual can enjoy. Even without catching a sardine, the experience teaches patience, discipline, and respect for nature.

Now, the beaches and waterways of the Gulf Coast are being bathed in crude, and not catching a fish might be one's best possible outcome.


Southern States

Yes this ecological calamity will spread, but the South it seems, will be hit the hardest. Hurricane season will likely spit the crude all over the coast.

New Orleans (Saints, Hornets), Tampa Bay (Buccaneers, Rays, Lightning),  Miami (Dolphins, Marlins, Heat, Panthers), and Houston (Texans, Astros, Rockets), may find themselves on the front line of this tragedy. Their coastal cities are likely to feel the effects, and could really use the support of their professional sports teams. The SEC and ACC will also need to do their very best to keep spirits up.


The Caribbean

Hispaniola produces some amazing athletes. I couldn't count the number of baseball players that have come out of the Dominican Republic with an abacus. Pierre Garçon is one of several athletes who has come from Haiti as well. Much US aid will be focused on the Gulf Coast, and players from the island will be called upon to aid their homeland.

Cuba is gonna be pissed. There's no real way around it. Like most islands in the Caribbean, Cuba depends heavily on the ocean for much of its nation's nutrition. Cuba, however, has had a trade embargo in place since 1960. Aid to Cuba from the US for this disaster is not likely.


Beach Volleyball

Ah, yes. There may be no sweeter sight than watching Misty May-Treanor spike through a block. The beaches, however, are becoming rather unsightly from the crude as it washes in. In Prince William Sound, Alaska, where the Exxon Valdez spilled approximately 10.8 million gallons in 1989, one can still find crude in the sand just inches below the surface. This would make the Fort Lauderdale Open a lot less sexy.



Okay, so it's not exactly Mavericks, but there are ridable waves all over the Caribbean. Actually, they're much more ridable than the killer cove in Half Moon Bay. Surfers have been at the forefront of keeping the oceans clean since the beginning of the sport, and will almost certainly continue the tradition in this time of crisis.


Everything else

Water skiing, wake boarding, swimming, sand castle building, you name it. No man is an island, and this problem is shared by all.



Why write this grim article? I was looking ahead to the September 20th Monday Night Football game, when the 49ers host the New Orleans Saints, when it occurred to me that there may be bigger issues for the city of New Orleans (again) at that time. We can only hope and pray that this mess is dealt with by then and that the effects aren't as apocalyptic as they've seemed recently.

Pointing fingers doesn't put out a fire. Blame is an irresponsible man's game, and it's a burden to be sorted out when the crisis ends. In the meantime, those who give us spectators our mental vacations of sport and leisure may need to be both counted on and consoled.

To dull the suffering, we may indulge, but we are to all remember that no sport, no athlete, no fan, and no man—lives in a vacuum.