Sport is just a game. Really.

This simple fact is often lost on the more zealous citizens of our world, who seem to take the mere playing of a game and elevate it to a titanic struggle for survival.

They treat sport as a war to be won, where the weak are vanquished.

Witness in part the scene outside a nightclub in Colombia recently. Andres Escobar, a member of the Colombian soccer team, accidentally scored a goal for the Americans in the Colombia-United States match. The Colombians lost the game to the underdog United States, 2-1, with the difference being Escobar's goal.

He went from soccer hero to pariah in one fleeting moment. And before he knew it, Escobar had made the biggest mistake of his life.

At the nightclub, words were exchanged between Escobar and the hostile crowd, which reminded him in no uncertain terms that he was persona non grata.

Then they shot him. Dead in the front seat of his car.

His sin was forgivable, a human error in a human sport. But the anguished Colombian citizenry felt as if they had been personally hurt by Escobar's mistake. They could not accept the loss, deciding that the sinner should pay with his life for his sins.

Alexi Lalas, a member of the U.S. soccer team who played against Colombia, was interviewed after news of Escobar's death had spread. He looked into the camera, puzzlement in his eyes, and shrugged sadly.

"It's just a game," he said.

Witness Donnie Moore, a relief pitcher for the California Angels. His team was one strike away from the World Series, when Moore threw a sinker that didn't sink to Boston's Dave Henderson. Home run. Boston won. Moore and his team went home.

For Donnie Moore, the memories never really went away.

One day several years ago, he shot and killed himself at his home. Friends said he never forgave himself for that October day at Anaheim Stadium when he let the team down. Moore killed himself because he failed at a game.

And yet today, fans all across the world go to sporting events and immerse themselves thoroughly, becoming physically sick when their team fails. It is not the team's failure, in a way they have failed, by definition, and the price for failure must be paid.

To this day fans still harass Bill Buckner, who in the 1986 World Series let an easy ground ball roll between his legs, which sent his Boston Red Sox to defeat in that game and eventually, defeat in the series.

He had to move away from Boston to get away from the rancor, but he said recently that everywhere he goes, people remind him of that error. He has forever been immortalized as a goat, a failure, a sinner.

But what was his sin? He failed at a game.

And in parents who chastise their children for dropping an easy fly ball in Little League, the tradition of blame lives on. Find the weak, then destroy them.

It is time to get away from this tradition of blame, of blowing sports up to life size. Life and death are not at stake here. It is only a game.

After a game in Little League, the players perform a required drill in which they huddle up and say a cheer for the opponent.

Oh, if all of sport could follow that touching example of sportsmanship. It is so simple then you play, and then you thank the opponent for competing with you.

The National Hockey League has its players shake hands after every game. Tennis players meet at the net to shake hands and congratulate each other on their performance. Thank you for competing.

We must preserve the spirit of the game. Andres Escobar and Donnie Moore must not be allowed to die in vain.

Adam Hartmann is the Summer Wildcat editor in chief. Read Next Article