My True Meaning of Sports
My wife stared daggers into my soul as I looked up from behind the computer.
The Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton hit an absolute bomb in his first at-bat of the 2020 MLB season the other night and I responded appropriately – with four to five LOUD claps.
In the heat of the moment, I forgot I have a daughter who slept quietly in the next room.
The sleeping beauty shuddered awake, my wife got mad and I apologized profusely. Just another lesson in the life of a new father.
Sports conjure out an interesting side of my personality.
I cried as a six-year-old when the Packers lost to John Elway and the Broncos in the 1997 Super Bowl. I shed tears again four years later when the Yankees lost the ’01 World Series just months after 9-11.
I jumped out of my chair when Aaron Rodgers completed not one, but two Hail Mary attempts in the 2015 NFC Divisional Game and fell to my knees when Brandon Bostick couldn’t hang on to an onside attempt against the Seattle Seahawks.
During a college rugby game, I disappointed my mother when, after the third time I scored a try in the game (an amazing feat for me), I got in the face of the other team and made it abundantly clear just how much better I was than them.
Editor’s note: That’s how I tell the story. In reality, my mom was livid after hearing me yell, “You can’t f***ing touch me” to the player I just ran over. Sorry, Mom.
I’m not alone either. Sports brings out the best in people (like the current advocacy for BLM and other causes) and the worst in people (a dude literally poisoned trees in Alabama because his favorite team lost).
What is it about sports that brings this out of people?
I often describe the Summer of 2016 as the worst point in my life. In the span of a month, my ex-girlfriend broke up with me, a college roommate died, my family dog had to be put down and, just for the icing on the cake, my apartment building got a roach infestation after the downstairs tenants became slobs.
Life sucked that summer, except for one thing: The New York Yankees.
The Yankees were bad that year, but on August 13, 2016, the team brought up Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge. I bought MLB.tv just to catch the action.
In the bottom of the second, Austin and Judge hit back-to-back home runs. It was the beginning of a culture change, from the serious and stoic Yankees lead by Derek Jeter to a young and youthful ballclub full of “Baby Bombers.”
I watched nearly every game the rest of the season. The Yankees finished outside of the playoff race, but they did something more for me than provide October magic – they helped me recover.
That summer is the first year I truly remember sports healing me. Since then, life has changed drastically after becoming a father. However, between my layoff in March, the world in a pandemic and the division within our country, my problems have evolved too.
As I sit writing this with my daughter curled up in my left arm, I realize how sports have the opportunity to calm my fears again. I’m not saying sports will make the virus go away or end systemic racism with the swing of the bat, but sometimes, we all need a moment of clarity.
Those things that ail my life and our country aren’t going away any time soon, but sports – even, if it’s just for the drop of a puck, a drawn out at-bat, or a basketball game – give me enough of a breath to get up and keep fighting.
While I’m not playing the games myself, I feel like this quote still applies to watching them, too.
“Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.” – Mike Singletary