Of Course Every Newspaper Should Have a Sports Section, But Why?

Some people get it, some people don’t. I’m talking about sports.
For some, their world revolves around sports. They know everything about every player on every team in every league. Take me, for example. Every time I open a Web browser the first thing I check is the NBC Sports Web site, and then ESPN. Then I go to my e-mail account. If I have some free time then maybe I’ll go on CNN.
Others sit back puzzled, wondering why people give such a damn about grown men and women playing with an object, and why we pony up so much money to watch it live. I spent $200 on eBay last year to go watch an Angels-Yankees playoff game (by the way, one of the biggest turn-ons is a girl who is knowledgeable about sports, but that’s another topic for another day).
When people ask me why I care so much, I usually get mad. But anger aside, I realize that these critics do have a point.
I mean, I love the Angels so much that last year I couldn’t bear to watch them get beat up by the Chicago White Sox in the ALCS. I was so afraid of them losing that I didn’t even want to think about it happening. It was like watching your own child get picked on at school by the big bully. But why would an arbitrary group of men playing a meaningless game get me so riled up? So what if they lost? I’m still alive. The Earth is still revolving on its axis. To the casual observer, it sure seems like I’m wasting my time.
In fact, some might even question why there is a section in every newspaper in the nation that devoted to sports. Why?
In my last sports column, I will try to justify a sports section in a newspaper for those of you unconvinced.
Former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren said it best: ‘I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.’
Warren was right. After writing primarily for the news and sports sections of the New University and editing the entire paper, it’s clear that what leads people to read each section is diametrically opposed. In news, you have the motto, ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’ In sports, you focus on the teams that are winning. In both cases, you’re focusing on what people want to read. For news, it’s almost always something negative, and for sports, it’s almost always something positive.
In addition, nothing brings people together more than the success of a sports team. UC Irvine is great and all, but I don’t see people jumping up and down because we’re ranked 10th among public research universities according to U.S. News and World Report, or because another professor was nominated for the National Academies, or because some researcher published some groundbreaking results in an obscure academic journal nobody reads. But when you build a winning sports program, people come, people take notice and people stay. It’s true, even here at UCI.
When I have some free time I like to look at old New University archives. I am amazed when I look back at how successful our Men’s Basketball team used to be with Jerry Green at the helm. I’ve covered the basketball beat the last two years and I’ve never seen a sold-out game. But when Green was around, the Bren would be filled to capacity; even those bad corner seats next to the entrances were taken.
Look at this year’s Men’s Volleyball team. When they went on their 21-game winning streak, there was a standing-room-only crowd in Crawford Court.
I just get chills down my spine when I see a buzzer-beater in basketball or a walk-off home run in baseball or a two-minute drive down the field in football. The best feeling is the excitement when the players and fans rush the court or field to jump up and down and celebrate. Oh, man.
But ultimately, the reason why participating and watching sports is so important is because it allows us to do what we’ve been doing since we were kids: have fun.
Sports, disguised today behind the shroud of multimillion-dollar shoe contracts and inflated salaries, is at its heart an avenue through which people young and old can come together and get back to doing and watching what really matters. Only through sports can you watch grown men give high-fives and hug each other and strangers they don’t even know.
While on the surface it may seem that sports aren’t really important, when you take a closer look it actually is quite important to the fabric of society. I think that merits coverage in a newspaper.