In sports stories, tragedy is usually just a paragraph or footnote in only the most in-depth of player biographies. Because of a sports stories slant, tragedy is only used in the context of another hurdle the athlete had to jump in order to make it to the pros. The writer of the story is also often talking about a situation that he has likely never experienced and never will. That’s what makes Brian Costello’s story “Remembering victims of the 1986 Swift Current Broncos bus crash” so good.
Costello tells the story of a bus carrying a major junior hockey team to their next road game hitting a patch of ice and crashing in a ditch, killing four players. What makes Costello’s story so good is that he was on the bus and could vividly recall the sights and emotions of the experience:
I sat directly behind bus driver Dave Archibald and watched as he vainly tried to coax direction into an unresponsive steering wheel before yelling for the Bronco bus passengers to hang on. When the bus flipped, I landed on Sakic and Graham James sexual-abuse-victim Sheldon Kennedy. In the mad chaos of confusion, I exited from the shattered front windshield and saw through the freezing rain two lifeless bodies laying behind the bus. With just socks on my feet, it seemed to take forever to get to their sides. Upon realizing it was best friends Kresse and Kruger, the team’s two top scorers, my instinctive narrow-minded reaction that very second was, wow, those horrible-looking injuries will keep them sidelined a while.
Costello’s first-person account of the accident combined with the honesty he shows in admitting to what his first thoughts were make this story better than any other that could have been written about it.
Another reason this story is so good is Costello doesn’t try and make the accident more than it was. It seems like in many sports stories, the author will try to make it seem as though whatever tragedy or adversity an athlete overcame is the sole reason he or she is a pro athlete today. Costello didn’t do that. He put the accident in perspective by not claiming that it made Joe Sakic (the person Costello landed on) into the future hall-of-famer he would become, nor did it have any influence on the Broncos head coach Graham James becoming a sex offender.
What makes this story so good is the perspective it is written from and the context it is used in.