Has your team ever won something spectacular in miraculous fashion? You were so happy you didn’t care who you hugged or celebrated with. Has your team ever lost a game and you were so angry or upset that you vent to whoever will listen? Then that one person comes to you and says “don’t worry… it’s just a game.” Those people are right.
But why are we so emotionally invested into sports and the games they play? Sports have given us a wide range of emotion, from excitement and elation, to anger and dismay. The spectrum is wide and chances are it has invoked a multitude of those emotions within you. If it’s just a game though, why do we care so much? There are probably many answers for this question. Each has their own validity to them, but we will only focus on one answer.
This next paragraph is meant to bring you down. I am going to make some assumptions about the general population here. Don’t worry I turn it around. But feel free to go to the next paragraph if you don’t want to be bummed out.
As most of us know, life isn’t fair. The world can be a cruel place. Sometimes you don’t get what you put in and if you don’t move on, you will just sit here wondering where the justification is. The reality is that the world is filled with problems. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it will still have problems long after you and I are gone. Life can be depressing at times. Chances are you are one of two things right now in life. You are probably in college, trying to make ends meet, juggling work, school, and social life. The other option is you are working 40 hours a week or more, wishing you could be doing something else; like being with your family or exploring what the world has to offer. Regardless of what you are doing the chances are you aren’t doing the thing you wanted to be when you grew up. The excited child that you use to be, that had dreamt of a bright future, is trapped inside of you wondering what the hell happened. You worry about the future and the uncertainty of how you will make ends meet month to month. You worry about work and trivial things that you know when you are on your death bed won’t mean a thing.
With all the problems in life, why take the time for sports at all?
My answer to this question is simple, inspiration.
As humans we thirst for inspiration. With sports, inspiration thrives. Within inspiration, emotion lives. That’s why we get so attached to the game and our teams. We love to witness miracles, we love to see greatness. This all contributes to the story lines that inspire us, we mass together to try and catch that glimpse of inspiration. We self-project these sports story lines within our own lives and our own tribulations. That within the game and within our own life, hard work and dedication pays off. That if you work hard enough, great things can happen. We want to see that through adversity, glory can be obtained. This inspiration that seeds people’s emotion can be easily witnessed. It grips entire cities; sometimes it can grip an entire country. Look at the past summer Olympics as we watched Michael Phelps solidify his legacy. Did you know he didn’t win a medal in his first Olympics, now he’s a household name. Look at the Boston Red Socks in 2004, when they came back down 3-1 vs the Yankees in the playoffs, they went to go on and win the World Series after failing for 86 years. What about the Cleveland Cavaliers ending a 52 year championship drought for the city? They had to beat the record holding, defending champions, the Golden State Warriors, down 3-1 in the NBA Finals. Right now the Chicago Cubs are on the path of captivating a nation by potentially breaking a 108 year curse.
We watch amazing things like this happen and it captivates us, it inspires hope for us. Hope that tomorrow will be better. That one day we will be out of that job we hate and doing something that matters to us. That one day there won’t be that lingering uncertainty of the future. That one day everything will finally fall into place.
There are plenty of examples out there of sports story lines inspiring hope. It’s the nature of sports and competition, it’s why we love it and are naturally drawn to it. It provides the inspiration that we crave, the inspiration that invokes that deep, powerful emotion. This emotion seeps through us as people and as fans, and all we can do is stand in awe of its capacity.
It’s just a game.