Uncommon Valor

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

by: Rich Daniels

We enjoy sports for many reasons, some of which we don't even realize. 

We are excited by the exploits of our favorite teams. Our personal heroes rise to prominence on the playing fields and fill voids in our lives with their performances. 

A sense of belonging is the payoff for dedicated fanhood. The men and women between the lines of those playing fields seem a level apart from the rest of us and many fans forget they're watching real human beings in action. That is the mystique of sports and entertainment, the realm beyond our reach.

Then, occasionally, some events act to blur the lines to which we are accustomed.

On Sunday, Toronto became the latest community to endure a mass shooting when a gunman killed two people and injured thirteen more. 

The next in a long line of such tragedies to instantly shake millions of people right to their collective core. But sports fans in Toronto found out that their adoration and support was appreciated and would be returned.

Like other incidents in other communities, every sports franchise in Toronto expressed their organizational heartbreak and unflinching support for the victims and their families as well as encouraging fans and citizens to gather strength.

The Blue Jays were among the first to do so and, being that their season is ongoing, pledged to be the vehicle for fans to utilize in returning a normal rhythm to their lives. 

A three-hour respite from being reminded of the hardship their community now bears. Baseball becoming at once the shared and individual experience providing relief from the burden of stress.

Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar is not Canadian but has adopted Toronto as his home and become a vibrant member of the community. Upon learning of the shooting, Pillar tweeted:

The native Californian was joined by teammate Marcus Stroman in expressing personal feelings and support in the wake of the incident. However, there was more in store for Pillar in the pursuant days when he found out that the young woman killed in the shooting, Reese Fallon, was not only a Blue Jays fan but a worshipful fan of him.

Upon learning one of his fans had died in such a tragic way, Pillar took to Twitter again by responding to a post from one of Fallon's relatives:

Now there are unconfirmed reports that Pillar has offered to pay for the young girl's funeral expenses no matter what is needed. This would be a gesture few, celebrity or not, have ever cared enough to offer.

An unfortunate aspect of the mass shooting phenomenon is that we have become conditioned to expect the perfunctory messages of support from celebrities. 

Politicians have come under severe scrutiny for the perceived emptiness of their messages of "Thoughts and Prayers".

The recent political and economic tumult stirred up between Canada and the U.S. has further tainted the reactions of some baseball fans to the plight of the only fan base outside the lower 48. Pillar's response, however, cuts a swath through all overlying factors and returns us all to a key realization: those in the celebrity spotlight are people not so unlike us that they are devoid of compassion and understanding. 

Celebrities and athletes must maintain a division of separation from the general public for good reason.

Star-struck admirers and those wanting something from them on an hourly basis force the division celebrities need to live their lives. But Pillar has stepped past that figurative moat and offered himself to those who admire him.

It's not something that can happen every day, but it is something beyond what most others are willing to do. Action born of valor uncommon to most people, not just athletes and celebrities. 

I urge baseball fans to both offer heartfelt support to those lost and injured in the Toronto shooting and to acknowledge Pillar's strong character and resolve to step outside his personal comfort zone to help a family that needs support.

Find him at @KPILLAR4 on Twitter and thank him for representing baseball in such an outstanding manner.

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