Listen, I know the drill. Andy Amey is the guy who does what-I-did-on-vacation columns at the Tribune-Star. If I do one? I'm just drafting off of his heat.

Acknowledging that, I go forward. I just returned to work after two weeks off I usually take in the summer to recharge the batteries and spend time with the family.

When you have kids? Your vacation regimen changes over the years. You go from kiddie parks and zoos, to water parks and zoos, to mega-parks and probably still zoos, to mega-parks, maybe a zoo and if you're a lucky a museum, to, gulp, college visits and emerging adulthood pursuits. And in my case? There's almost always going to be a MLB game mixed in somewhere.

I'm in the last stage — sadly or proudly depending on where my mind happens to be at a given moment — and it made for two interesting trips. One was to Michigan and Pittsburgh for college visits and a game. The other was to Atlanta, a full family trip, for a long weekend.

Fun and new experiences were had and some crazy stuff too. In the June 23 Pittsburgh-San Diego game? We witnessed a finish that hadn't happened since 1930 — a three-run rally in bottom of the ninth by the Pirates to tie the game. Then came a three-run 11th for the Padres, followed by a four-run bottom of the 11th for the Buccos to win the game. 

My kids and I also got trapped in an iconic Pittsburgh building. In Atlanta, we had a "National Lampoon's Vacation" hotel moment (thankfully rectified), my son ate octopus (I chickened out), and instead of a game, my wife had her prayers answered as we went to a musical instead.

The most thought-provoking moments came on the Atlanta portion of our sojourn. We visited a lot of museums and many featured a historical theme of some sort. 

History is something many people think is boring or they actively dislike. In school? If you're not one of the chosen few, like me, who counted history as their favorite? You likely dreaded it.

Unfortunately, that's partly because history over the years has too often been taught as an exercise in dorky and wonky detail (often because those passionate about it are dorky and wonky themselves — including this guilty party) or as a procedural exercise in chronology. Very rarely is history given much relevance to the present, even as the oft-repeated phrase "history repeats itself" is parroted by many, but understood by few.

Me? I take equal parts comfort in the lessons of history as well as heed its cautionary tales. For example, we visited the Atlanta History Museum. In it, is a restored cyclorama (a gigantic painting in the round) of the Civil War Battle Of Atlanta, one of just two of the behemoths left from when cycloramas toured the nation as the IMAX of their day in the late 1800s. 

The history of the exhibit was as fascinating as the exhibit itself. At one point, during the height of southern Lost Cause sentiment, the battle was repainted for an Atlanta audience to reflect a Confederate victory of what was a decidedly decisive Union one. You see? Fake news isn't as new a phenomenon as we think it is. I take an odd comfort in that.

So what does all of this have to do with sports? I'm getting there, but the most moving visits we made in Atlanta were to the Martin Luther King National Historic Park and the National Center For Civil and Human Rights.

Obviously, both had the 1950s and 1960s civil rights movement as their focus and both did a wonderful job of putting you back into that time period. As someone born after that period? I knew the facts, knew the names, knew the dates, knew the divisiveness, knew the moments of both human triumph and tragedy that encompassed the civil rights movement. Yet, it's still jarring to put yourself back into that time period and experience it next-to-first-hand.

Visiting these places brings to bear a lot of emotions, many of them uncomfortable. If you don't come away without having a few soul-searching moments? You're probably not doing it right.

Among the things that stuck out was the virulence of the devotion displayed by both parties. I'm making pains to not say "on both sides" because that implies equality in their causes — and this was clearly a fight where the cause for civil rights was just and right and the segregationists were reprehensible and wrong.

The cautionary tale part of history comes into focus when you reflect upon the then and the now. The civil rights movement is thought of by many as a historical period having passed with victories having been won and society having advanced along with it.

The truth is that some of the battles of the civil rights movement, presented as history in those venues, is being re-fought today. Some of what was won in that era has been eroded. The passions that were aflame at the time have embers that never were extinguished and that threaten to re-fire. 

History is never a straight line march with winners and losers. Malign forces that are often seemingly snuffed have a way of re-appearing in new forms. You learn with the passing of time that very few movements are ever truly over. And that's not just true for civil rights. It's true for most of the weighty matters of life.

So, again, what does this have to do with sports? As a sportswriter, I love what I do, but I fully acknowledge that sports are a diversion and just a sideshow in the grand scheme of things. I often wonder how can sports fit into our lives more than just as an exercise in riffing off scores?

Then it dawned on me. The important matters of the world very rarely have a distinct timeline, a clean result or even an end. In some cases, you can trace some of today's problems back thousands of years if you want to. 

Sports gives us the chance to have something we rarely have in life — an indisputable outcome. It sounds simple, and a bit counter-intuitive, but there's a lot to be said for pouring your passion into an endeavor that has a logical end to it, no matter how frivolous it may seem on the surface. Sports gives us defined winners and losers — and how many other parts of our lives can the same be claimed?

Sure, you might hate the outcome when you lose. You might think your team got hosed. You might think a call changed the outcome unfairly. But there's still an outcome. The passion that sports create are all tied to the very black-and-white notion of the glory of winning or the pain of losing. In most aspects of life? We live in a state of gray with joy and pain coming in temporary drips and drabs that we often have to experience and re-experience over and over again. Sports gives us a respite from that.

Many decry the tribalism that sports also generate. I disagree. I'm glad we have the conduit. I'd much rather pour the herd mentality instinct we all share into something like sports than something like hate or jealous of what others have. If we didn't have sports, I'd hate to see where some of that passion might be diverted. For that alone? Sports have their place in the sun.

So while I took away many lessons from my vacation, one of them is that I'm glad we have sports to give us the chance to funnel our passions into something that gives us certainty. I take comfort in that. There's very few parts of our lives that can otherwise do the same.

 

Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or todd.golden@tribstar.com. Follow Golden on Twitter at @TribStarTodd.

Todd Aaron Golden has been Sports Editor and Indiana State beat writer since September 2004. Born in Milwaukee but an Indiana resident most of his adult life, he previously worked in Jeffersonville, Columbus and Eau Claire, Wis.

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