Anyone who has ever interacted with me probably knows I love sports. Some even ask “Why sports?” Especially since my career trajectory is in sports, this question greets me daily with my coffee. With everything from how I interact with people casually to how I explain social issues on a small scale, sports are my fallback. I’m going to try to explain the “why sports” because sometimes I think people get very focused on the event that is watching or playing a game.
If talking about sports were a love language, it would be mine. Relating sports to pretty much anything increases my understanding of a topic (like, if the LSAT logical reasoning section was entirely made up of sports-related questions, I might have done better). Talking about sports also helps me relate to other people, which saves me from many weather conversations. If someone wears team apparel, starting a conversation gets that much easier (even if they support the Patriots or Duke).
Sport is a universal language spoken across the world, kind of like math but less useful. Even people who don’t like sports have an opinion about sports, and that is way more interesting to talk about than how climate change may or may not be real (there’s only one right answer when discussing climate change with me). Between the politics, social justice, and pop culture elements of sports, there’s plenty to dive into without even debating the best basketball player of all time. And then for those who do like sports, there’s fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…and that’s just the College Football National Championship! This might have been the beginning of “why sports” because, moment of honesty, we all want to know we can somehow relate to the walking meat sacks we interact with daily.
Jokes aside, sports create a table in society that everyone is welcome to join. People work every day to make the world of sports more inclusive by addressing ability and socioeconomic status to allow for anyone and everyone to be welcome. Whether someone plays or watches, they can still be included. I think that’s kind of great. World peace could theoretically be achieved through sports (okay, that’s a stretch, but what if it happened!). While my theory seems outlandish, does it not give you hope that there exists an entity in society that brings everyone together regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexuality, religion, ability, or political ideology? Yes, there are some kinks to work out in terms of providing better access to allow for more voices to be heard, but the opportunity to create access exists! This is “why sports.” The world can be changed through sports!
I mentioned before that I work in sports. I used to do it because duh, it’s fun and way better than sitting at a desk all day pushing paper. Now I do it because duh, it’s fun and some days I go home overwhelmed with joy about the work I get to do. Not only do I get to work with people who like sports as much as I do, but also people who are just all around good, hardworking folks.
A little insight into working in sports, it’s not glamorous and the pay is trash. You work long hours and will miss out on big things (weddings, births, graduations, bar mitzvah, etc.). You’ll learn to really value the time spent with loved ones, while building some of the best relationships I have ever witnessed in a workplace. You get to see and be a part of some once in a lifetime things, but in exchange you still have to help clean up after that big event. You probably won’t get thanked for what you do often, but when you do, your heart melts. I mean this in the least cheesy way because the thanks you receive won’t look like your supervisor telling you you did a nice job. Instead it’s the pediatric cancer patients you brought to a sporting event sending you thank you cards, not knowing when they’ll get to see another game in person. It looks like someone stealing your idea and running with it at a different program because it was cool. It looks like someone looking to you as their mentor in a crazy industry and really taking your words to heart. Of course, you get the normal praise from a supervisor for doing your job, but that’s never why you continue working in sports.
Social justice and sports seem to go hand in hand. If social justice makes you squeamish, let’s talk about social justice in sports, let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about making the world a better place for babies. Seriously, what type of person can sit and say they disagree with civil rights and then claim to be American? Homie, if you ain’t for civil rights, you for communism and we don’t support that ’round here. So learn about civil rights and activism through sports, the universal language. You don’t understand why women want equal pay? Look at the US Women’s Soccer team. They outperformed their male counterparts and got paid peanuts. Look into that and you’re exploring social justice. I get it, those are dirty words, but I promise we can get you to a place where you might even consider yourself a social justice warrior because the world doesn’t really need more meninists. To the meninists who made it this far and are offended, we can talk. You gon’ learn today, son, about sports and social justice. And yet again, this is “why sports.” Sports create a platform to explain social issues to people who can’t seem to wrap their mind around the big picture of society and the implications of oppressing groups.
Alright, so the fun part of “why sports.” The community and watching your team win (or lose). College sports somehow bring together the most random people because all they have in common is being a sports fan as a college student. Saturdays in the fall, specifically, bring out the best in people when they get together as a group of fans and support the team as a community. Remember that figurative table? Well, here’s the literal example of how sports bring people together.
You might be from a farm near Sterling and the person next to you might be from San Diego, and now you can bond over a love of (insert team name here) all because you’re both part of a bigger community. This is overly simplified, but you get the point. Sporting events create a community, which is pretty dope when you think about it. You could have bonded over so many other things like food, HAMM radio, craft beer, hating a group of people based on something completely arbitrary, knitting, or even hiking. But instead, you were absorbed into a larger community of sports fans who often just want to drink a beer and enjoy a good game/match. This is “why sports.”
After all of my rambling, I’m not really sure I can fully answer the why, I just feel it in my gut like inhaling a bag of fresh cheese curds. I know it’s where I’m supposed to be. Sports and knowing there’s an opportunity to make a positive impact on a community and, eventually, society get me out of bed in the morning. I also like knowing I’m a part of a community with so many people who want to make other people feel wanted and important regardless of how they look and what they believe (except, of course, Nazis; most people aren’t really trying to absorb Nazis into their community. However, many folks do want to help Nazis become better people by not being Nazis, but this is a comment for different article).