Fire Sets Back Anteater Sports, but Sets Back Much More

This week was going to be an excellent opportunity for teams to continue building their momentum and solidifying their foundation for the end of the conference stretch.
This past week was one of the most unfortunate in UC Irvine sports.
The men’s water polo team was coming off two clutch victories against rivals Long Beach State and Loyola Marymount University. Freshman Brandon Johnson scored the game-winning goal with one second left to lift the Anteaters past LMU, and senior Colin Mello’s goal with 19 seconds left put them past the Beach. The upcoming match against UC San Diego should have provided another confidence-booster for the squad.
Men’s soccer had bounced back and defeated Cal State Fullerton 2-1 in overtime. The soccer team had some late-game heroics of its own when junior Matt Murphy sniped a 30-yard free kick with 10 seconds remaining against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to equalize the match that eventually ended in a 1-1 tie. A game against UC Riverside would have helped the struggling men’s squad continue building momentum.
Women’s soccer was coming off two very impressive and encouraging victories against the University of the Pacific and UC Davis on the road. They won the games with scores of 2-0 and 2-1, respectively. An emotional match-up against rival Long Beach State might have provided the team with some extra elevation and enthusiasm.
All of these matches took place two weeks ago. The disastrous Southern California wildfires halted all outdoor activities this last week, forcing our athletic teams to practice indoors and cancel all scheduled games.
I made it seem as though postponing the games will cool down our athletic squads, which are just beginning to heat up. However, no one can predict the outcomes of those games. For all I know, this could be a blessing in disguise. The fires, however, are no blessing.
While the fires certainly affected our athletic squads, it inflicted tremendous damage on numerous individuals’ properties, homes and lives.
The fires have burned over 500,000 acres and destroyed over 1,700 homes in less than one week. Fourteen fires have been 100 percent contained, but nine others continue to wreak havoc. Firefighters all over Southern California are working non-stop to battle the flames, and thousands of people are returning home to find it nonexistent.
Instead of having to deal with a canceled game, these people are faced with a simple but overwhelming question, ‘What do we do now?’
Many people and businesses have opened their doors to house evacuees. In the world of sports, the status of the San Diego Chargers home football game was of great concern on the news, but what did not get much coverage was the use of Qualcomm Stadium as a shelter for over 10,000 evacuees.
Dodger Stadium did the same for evacuees in surrounding areas. We have seen these kinds of acts by sports teams before, most recently by the New Orleans Saints during Hurricane Katrina.
The Los Angeles Galaxy has already organized a charity celebrity soccer game and auction for the victims, and it is time for us to do the same.
Anyone at UCI who walked outside last Sunday and noticed something eerie in the sky can connect himself or herself to the fire. It was almost surreal for me to turn on the news and see virtually every city in the Southland in flames.
Most of those who live on campus have been fortunate enough to not be directly involved in the fire; however, judging by the number of absences in my classes, many people’s homes were affected. The air quality throughout the Southland has been poor and made it difficult to breathe, let alone engage in physical activity.
Firefighters from all over the state and surrounding areas have come down to tackle the life-threatening fires. Over 20,000 homes are still in danger, while nine fires remain uncontained.
The effects of this fire ought to stop each and every one of us and make us rethink what is most important to us in life. Sure, we lost some quality games and outside activities, but we still have our loved ones and possessions intact. We are the fortunate ones, and we should be thankful.
It is now our duty to help our neighbors across the Southland recover from this horrible tragedy and get their lives, and ours, back on track.