Beyond The Outer Layer of Sports

Sports are as important to this world as literature, art and politics. Don’t laugh, it’s true. Nothing excites the world quite like sports. No story is as unpredictable, satisfying and heartbreaking as sports. What can make entire countries sit in front of their televisions to cheer one person on? What can single handedly recover a father and son’s relationship with a ball and a glove? Sports. Sports are like “300,” the movie as a reality TV show. Sports are like “Moby Dick” on a tangible court. Sports are like fighting a political power without really fighting. I’m not trying to prove this to myself – I’ve known this since I was a child. The Cheeseheads in Green Bay, Red Sox Nation in Boston and the Shark Tank in San Jose know. Why doesn’t everybody else?

Sports can do what books, plays and movies can do but takes it a step further – it’s real. Movies will show you the hero’s struggle, they will show the hero suffering extremes, but in the end, they will always make some triumph. Sports won’t do that. Sports aren’t afraid to break your heart. It will show you an excellent Patriots team that worked hard and deserved to be rewarded for their work lose to a New York Giants team that, in a few crucial plays, got lucky. It will show you the other side of the spectrum too. A nation will witness a “We Believe” movement spawn off of one season ticket holder’s sign and an undersized Golden State Warriors basketball team with a chip on their shoulder. Sports has no heart and all the heart in the world at the same time. There is a winner and a loser. Heartbreak and happiness. Hopes, dreams and emotion are all invested in sports – how is it not important?

During the time of World War II, the German fighter Max Schmeling defeated the African-American success story Joe Louis. Although Schmeling won the first fight, some saying it reaffirmed the German’s ideas of Aryan supremacy, the rematch was even bigger. All of Germany cheered on their prizefighter and the Americans, for the first time in boxing history, were all behind the African-American Louis. The 1980 Olympic hockey team was filled with a bunch of amateurs. People scoffed at the new US team and said they didn’t even belong on the ice. However, once their chemistry started flowing, coach Herb Brooks’ program started to work, the US started winning games. Eventually they played the big bad Russian team for the gold medal. This was bigger than the Super Bowl. It was Russia against the US. It was the Cold War on cold ice; Communism versus Democracy. Sports can’t be anything but important. Right?

As a child I played any sport that was available to me. During PE, I was one of the kids that was pretty good at every game. I had my mom sign me up for parks and recreation leagues in baseball, football, field hockey and basketball. I ate the stuff up. The consistent factor in all of my athletic endeavors went by the name of “daddy.” He didn’t excel at all sports. He didn’t even play all sports himself. But if there was a referee or umpire to make a call regarding my play, you better bet my dad was there to make sure he was making the right decisions.

My dad didn’t know all of the basics to the games but he knew the basics of sports in general. He taught me about the importance of hard work, determination, passion and a little luck. On Sunday mornings when NBC still had a contract with the NBA, I would wake my dad up so we can watch the featured games on the “NBA on NBC.” I went with my dad to his friends’ Super Bowl parties. When we moved out of our old house during my middle school years, my dad made up my loss of friends with a brand new basketball court on our driveway. Sports was my vehicle to the man I looked up to. It translated my childish talk to his adult language. It gave me a chance to spend time with him. Feel emotion from someone who has a difficult time displaying his emotions. He’d rarely say I love you, but he’d always say, “You did a good job out there.” Sports gave me a connection to my old man. Forget what the rest of the world thinks. Sports are important to me and I have my proof.