After a tragedy, we all need something to give us hope. Here's how sports have done that.

When Hurricane Harvey struck southeast Texas in August 2017, it left the area underwater, and many residents found themselves completely devastated.

Image by South Carolina National Guard/Wikimedia Commons.

They'd lost their homes, their towns, and their sense of safety.


But even after all that pain, there was one thing that Houston residents could still come together and root for: the Houston Astros.

The baseball team, which had never won a World Series, was having an incredible season. It seemed like they might have a shot at going all the way. On the day Harvey hit, the team was already leading their division by 12 games.

After the storm, they team played on, even hotter than they had been before. They finished the regular season 21 games ahead of division's second-place team, the Los Angeles Angels.

And just nine weeks after Harvey struck the state, the Astros made that World Series win a reality.

Fans celebrated in flood-damaged homes, sitting in rooms with walls stripped down to the studs and nothing but a TV and lawn chairs inside.

Astros players told the media they'd done it for the city.

"We love each and every one associated with Houston. We've been through a lot, and for us not to be there when everything was going on really hurt us," pitcher Dallas Keuchel told MLB.com. "This is our redemption. This is what we give on back."

This wasn’t the first time that a sports team gave their cities something to hope and cheer for in times of tragedy.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina, a category 5 storm, decimated the city of New Orleans. So during the 2006 draft, the New Orleans Saints were in bad shape.

Photo by Mark Wolfe/Wikimedia Commons.

“I remember driving from the airport to the team facility as a free agent the spring after Katrina,” Scott Fujita, who signed with the Saints in 2006, told Sports Illustrated, “and there’s only one way to describe what I saw: post-apocalyptic.”

The team drafted Reggie Bush, a star linebacker who would prove crucial to the Saints’ success a few seasons later. By 2009, the city was still in the midst of their hurricane recovery, but the team was showing signs of life. That season, they jumped to a 13-0 record.

"A lot of fans would explain to us that this was their break from their reality," Jonathan Vilma, former Saints linebacker, told CBS Sports. "So they wanted to go and get there early, tailgate, get away from whatever problems that they had going on."

When the team won the 2010 NFC Championship, in the Superdome that had been a shelter and become a symbol of Katrina, the significance wasn’t lost on anyone.

The Saints' victory. Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images.

And when they went on to win the Super Bowl, it felt like a victory for everyone.

“It’s not just a game, it’s a rally for the city, for the team,” says Jonathan Levitt, who was living outside of Boston at the time of the 2013 Marathon bombing.

For Levitt, that day was a personal turning point: It was the day he decided he wanted to run marathons. For the city of Boston, recovery would take time. “The next few days were really strange,” he says. “Nobody really knew what to do, where to go, what was safe.”

But it was baseball season, so the Red Sox stepped up to be the leaders Boston needed. David Ortiz, affectionately called “Big Papi,” grabbed the microphone during a home game at Fenway Park. “This is our fucking city!” he boomed to a cheering crowd. “And nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”

Led by Ortiz and backed by Boston residents, the 2013 Red Sox began to get hot. And they stayed that way throughout the season. They won their division, then the pennant, and then the World Series itself.

Fans celebrating the Red Sox winning the 2013 World Series. Photo by Kiva Kuan Liu/BU News Service/Flickr.

“The city rallied around [the Red Sox] and it became sort of a unifying thing,” Levitt says. “Then they go on to win the World Series and I think it was a pretty inspired season.”

Sports give people a temporary escape from reality.

“We truly embrace having other people commiserate with us. It’s a real bonding thing to feel connected with people who care as much as you do,said Edward Hirt, a professor with the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University who researches fanship, to Headspace.

“What a great opportunity to feel connected to something that transcends ourselves.”

Image via iStock.

The tragedies also seem to inspire greatness in athletes may feel an obligation to step up and perform.

Perhaps it’s what they feel they can give at a time when it’s easy to feel small and helpless.

“When you see underdogs win, [it shows] that stuff pays off,” Hirt said. “The team that wants it more and tries harder getting rewarded is a theme that really resonates with us. It makes us feel like there’s justice in the world.”

At the World Series in 2001 at Yankee Stadium, just weeks after the devastation of 9/11, President George W. Bush threw the ceremonial first pitch while wearing a bulletproof vest.

Photo by Eric Draper/Wikimedia Commons.

“For the first time I think in the history of baseball, people around the country were rooting for the Yankees to win,” actor and Yankees fan Billy Crystal told ESPN.

That is the unifying power of sports. It can bring together the unlikeliest of people, and for a few hours, they can feel as one.

This story was produced as part of a campaign called "17 Days" with DICK'S Sporting Goods. These stories aim to shine a light on real occurrences of sports bringing people together.

Correction 2/20/2017: This post was updated to fix a misattributed quotation.

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign. We don't do PSAs. We also need to update so to explain truth – the nonprofit behind the truth youth smoking prevention campaign – you could also say this in a funny way – best known for sharing the facts about smoking and vaping or pull from some old campaigns. Just layer in a description of truth and who the campaign is., is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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Have you ever watched a movie that's so abysmally bad that you wonder how it ever even got made? Where you think, "Hundreds and hundreds of people had to have been directly involved in the production of this film. Did any of them ever think to say, 'Hey, maybe we should just scrap this idea altogether?"

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