by Clark Groome

After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941 there was a lot of discussion about whether or not the 1942 baseball season, or any season during the war, should be held.

Many of the best players had gone off to fight. The country needed to focus on the efforts at home to supply the soldiers with the maintenance and food and equipment and planes they would need to defeat their two well-equipped and fierce enemies.

But baseball went on. It was decided that it would be good for everyone to have a diversion from the news from Europe and the Pacific. This wasn’t so people could forget, that would be impossible, but so people could take a break, albeit only for a couple of hours, from the pressures and tensions war creates.

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most sporting events were shut down so that our citizens could focus on the horror we’d suffered and so that our security folks could make sure that, especially in large venues, the players and spectators were safe.

Five or six days later, major league baseball, college and professional football and pre-season hockey began again. Those games, especially the end-of-the-season baseball contests that were often critical to a team’s chances to make the post season, helped the nation heal. As was the case during World War II, the post-9/11 games were an escape, a diversion from the pain we were all suffering.

While those are extreme examples, sports clearly are meant to be a distraction, if for only a short time, from “the real world.” Sports are supposed to be fun.

While today’s world isn’t quite as tense as were World War II and the days after 9/11, there’s plenty of serious stuff going on from which escape is welcome.

The tragedy in Brussels and the concern about future incidents in Europe or in the United States remind us of the hate and pain that is pervasive in so many parts of the world.

Along with that is the ugliest political campaign in memory. Some say it’s the ugliest ever while others say that label belongs to the campaigns of 1824 and 1828.

So, what about diversions? Here are three that should capture, or already may have captured, your attention as March turns into April:

First and clearly foremost is the impressive run of Jay Wright’s Villanova basketball team in the NCAA Tournament. Playing their best basketball of the year, their first three tourney victories against UNC Asheville, Iowa and Miami established the Wildcats as the team to beat. Then on Saturday night in Louisville, Ky., they faced the number 1 overall seed Kansas Jayhawks in a back-and-forth thriller that the local squad ultimately won 64-59, sending them to next weekend’s Final Four in Houston.

This group is not only a terrific basketball team it’s also a great group off the court. It represents Villanova, the Big East Conference and Philadelphia-area basketball magnificently.

A very close second for people looking for temporary escape from the news about terrorists and politicians is the Flyers’ impressive, if maddeningly inconsistent, late-season run to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After Saturday night’s listless loss to the Arizona Coyotes, the Orange and Black is tied with the faltering Detroit Red Wings for the last wildcard slot in the Eastern Conference. With some tough games ahead – including two with the hated Pittsburgh Penguins, one each with the league-leading Washington Capitals, the New York Islanders and the Red Wings – this run could come right down to the wire.

Goalie Steve Mason is playing lights-out at the moment and the rest of the squad is playing very well, with my attention being grabbed especially by Nick Cousins, Sean Coutourier, Captain Claude Giroux and rookie phenom Shayne “Ghost” Gostisbehere,

The last eight games should be barnburners, a great way to spend time away from the headlines.

Finally – and this is a longer-term escape, perhaps taking you through most of the political campaign – is the 2016 Phillies season that starts next Monday in Cincinnati.

Unlike last year, the upcoming Phillies campaign should be very interesting and entertaining. We’ll get to know some of the kids who just possibly will make up the next Phils’ competitive roster. The games should be closer. They’ll likely win more than the 63 they registered last year. (My prediction: 72 wins.)

So there you have three sports situations that could give you some relief from the negatives of reality. There are likely many others but at least this is a start.

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