Simply put, sports are why we still exist as a species. Sadly, since the beginning of time, mankind is an aggressive, ego-led, fear-based species. (Notice I said mankind, personally, if it was womankind, I think we’d be much more advanced as a species…and we’d smell better, too).
We are continent against continent, nation against nation, city against city, town against town, neighbor against neighbor and even brother against brother. From the moment we are in our nest, we are trying to push out the weakest of us, to make sure we get the biggest part of the worm. Every single thing in this society is based on who ‘wins’ and who ‘loses’, whether it be the size of your house, the job you get, the car you drive or who you marry. Not everyone, but just look at how we line up on Black Friday to buy our kids cheap, plastic things – that’s us trying to get a ‘win’ either on a purchase, or to for the love of a child. It’s just who we are.
Sports help us to divert that need to fight/win to something a tad less bloody. War was the only way nations could compete and show their might, now we have two other ways, they complete in the Olympics and they compete in their various stock markets. It’s still a game of who wins and who loses, lives are still changed (and sometimes lost) but at a much slower scale.
On a smaller level, sports are what give kids a focus during confusing times growing up, whether it’s puberty, boredom, bullying or just trying to find what they excel at in this world. It gives some kids something to focus on, they may not be good at math or science, but they know if they push hard enough – they could get a scholarship in a sport they play.
It teaches them the same types of thing the military does, that you aren’t an Army of One, in reality, you are part of a team and must learn to exist in that team in order to get anything done. It teaches them discipline, pushing oneself, how to respect authority and it builds self-esteem.
Sports also make an amazing advancement in societal issues. We see what letting Jackie Robinson play did for the advancement of African-Americans in sports. He played on that field, while being spat at and having things thrown at him, only to win over the hearts and minds of Americans who slowly realized they loved the game more than their ignorance. Making yourself a target, just to be able to do the job you love, I think he did more for this country than people can even begin to realize.
But what I think is the most important thing about sports, is that it brings people together. Not only cities and states or even regions of the country – just look at the stands of most major games – and you will see all races, all religions and all age-ranges, sitting side by side, cheering for a common goal. But what I find even more important, is that sports provide something for the family. They provide a bridge from father to son, father to daughter, mother to father, etc. It gives people who may seem like polar opposites, who possibly can’t agree on much of anything, something to have and remember.
Most people I know, who are huge sports fans, were brought up that way. They tend to worship the same religion as their dad, they tend to be the same political party as their dad…and they tend to cheer for a team they cheered with their dad. The connection between a father and son can be a shaky thing in our lives, but at the end of the day, even those who can’t seem to talk about anything…can cheer side by side. And anything that can bring together a father and a son, or a father and a daughter, is something I will stand up and cheer for.
Vince Yanez is the author of Einstein’s Shutter, among other works.