Sports are games - athletic competition that force us to test our limits. Sports aren’t life-or-death; they aren’t even that meaningful, really. But sometimes, things happen that cause sports to take on greater meaning. Sometimes, sports can be just what the metaphorical doctor ordered
Sports bring a smile to our faces, they bring together strangers, and they unite communities. In times of hardship, people often come together to cheer for an athlete or team. In sports, we can forget about our lives for a few hours, forget about the pain of our Soldiers being gone for a year, the debt we are in, or any of a number of other negative things that may be going on in our lives.
For two hours every Saturday or Sunday, we are taken to a different world, where red and black are the only acceptable colors, and all that matters is that the Bulldogs beat the Gators.
There are times when sports become more than just competition; they unite, they help us begin to heal, and, most importantly, they make us smile.
I just finished reading an article on ESPN.com about University of Miami walk-on wide receiver Chris Hayes, whose father committed suicide last October. Hayes had never even dressed for a game, but the Saturday following his father’s untimely death, the special teams coach told Hayes he was suiting up. And during the last play of the game, the 5’9" Hayes lined up as tight end against an All-American linebacker.
Hayes had no impact on that game; in fact, he has little impact on his team ever – in the win-loss column, anyway. But on that particular day, he showed his team made up of future NFLers what real heart is, and what sports really mean. Hayes didn’t have to show up to the game only days after burying his father. Quite frankly, most people probably didn’t expect him to. But for Hayes, I’d have to think that going to the game was a way to start the healing process. Through a game, Hayes showed the heart of a champion, and that sometimes sports can help us overcome immense pain.
Every year on ESPN, they have the Make-a-Wish series, where sick children fulfill their sports fantasies by spending the day with their favorite athlete or team. By the end of each of the three-minute segments, I am undoubtedly in tears and remembering why it is that I love sports so much. It’s because they can heal, even if it’s just for a moment.
There are small towns in America that have little to cheer for besides those games under the Friday night lights, when the entire community rallies around a group of 15-18 year old boys.
Even at the worst point in our lives, sports can pick us up; they give us something to look forward to, and something to cheer for. Whether it’s cheering up a kid who is battling illness, helping a man get over the loss of his father, or bringing together a down-and-out community, sports do mean something.