Sports have a strange pull on a large number of people, including myself. Fundamentally, many of these sports boil boil down to hitting balls with sticks or kicking balls into nets, yet these simple summations fail to grasp what it is that makes them so intriguing. Here is my attempt to line out why I believe it is that sports have such a firm place in my heart. I have come up with 5 main reasons that are listed below.
The love of sports and specific sports teams is often passed down from one generation to the next and this is certainly part of my story. My parents and extended family love watching and playing sports, so it is natural that I would catch some of the sports bug. We have had season tickets to the Chiefs my whole life and have gone to a few Royals games each year. It was part of my childhood and going back to those places always reminds me of those good memories.
2. Universal Connection
Sports are played everywhere in the world. Which sport is played might be different, but the pursuit of athletic achievement and competition is ubiquitous. This means that I can go anywhere in the world and have an instant connection to the people there. Soccer is the sport that best displays this attribute. It is the world sport and no matter where I am in the world, I can start a conversation about the stars of the sport and be able to meet new people. Few, if any, other institutions are that widespread. This is an incredibly powerful idea. I love that I have an easy-to-open door for billions of people around the world. Often finding that first thing to talk about is the hardest. Sports makes it easier.
This seems to be the one that befuddles non-sports fans the most. How can it be that us watching these goofy games can cause such an emotional outpouring? Why do we get so caught up in it? If you want a good example of exactly this sort of strange behavior, you can read about my growing love for Borussia Dortmund. To be honest, I think most sports fans are just as lost for a good explanation. We can offer partial explanations, but they never seem to get to the core of what is happening. Sports unfold as a real-life drama. In the same way that we get wrapped up in the emotional lives of fictional characters in our TV shows, movies, and books, sports fans get wrapped up in the emotional lives of the players on the field. But, even that seems incomplete, because (for team sports, at least) people don't just get wrapped up in the players. They get wrapped up in the teams. We are rooting for laundry! To a point, it does not matter who is wearing that gorgeous powder blue Royals jersey, but rather only that whoever has that jersey on is lifting that World Series trophy at the end of the year.
Sports offer a real-life, totally unpredictable drama that is played out in front of millions of people at once, all of whom have some sort of stake in it. That is something unique to sports and something that seems to tug at many people's heartstrings.
Beyond simply tapping into an emotional part of myself, sports also allow me to tap into my analytic side. I love being able to analyze and dissect the sport. I have become really interested in sports analytics, as statistical methods are being used to better understand how best to play sports. I can also dive into the deep history of these sports and see how sports have connected to our history and the culture of our past. I can think on how changes in some sport over the last century might change how it is played. In this way, sports alight my curiosity. They spark my desire to learn.
5. Civic Pride
Sports teams come to represent more than just the team itself. Sports teams come to represent their home city or home country. Growing up in Kansas City, part of what made me feel a part of this city and proud of this city was the Chiefs, Royals, and (more recently) Sporting Kansas City. These teams represented our town to the rest of the country. Perhaps, more importantly, it allowed me to feel an instant bond to my home city. No matter where I go, I know I can wear Kansas City sports gear and still represent where I grew up. That feeling is perhaps even tighter with Kansas State University. As a smaller community, Kansas State is so tightly connected to Manhattan, Kansas that there are nearly one in the same. The sports teams I love reflect upon my love for these places that I have lived.