I love sports, I have as long as I have been aware of them. Football (of the soccer variety) is my favourite, but I love many many sports. American Football, Rugby League, Basketball, Baseball, Cricket, Athletics, Cycling, almost any event at the Olympics on & on.
I used to have a very unhealthy perspective on sports, placing it at the top of my priority list, the happenings of the once great Leeds United would affect my entire existence. To place one’s life on something that cannot give life back, something that you ultimately don’t have any input or involvement with is utterly ridiculous. Yet that was my life for many years, just like millions of people around the world.
I have a better perspective on sports now, I still have a deep passion for sport, but in the end, while it is enjoyable & can bring elation or despair, it is just a game, nothing more than entertainment. Sports are more enjoyable for me this way.
What is it though about sports? What is it about playing them & watching them that captivates the imagination so?
I’m sure there is an inbuilt desire to compete, maybe the caveman survival instinct. More so there is the deep desire for validation that is hidden in all of us. To know that we have what it takes, to know we are good at something. The most successful athletes usually have a messed up need to prove that they are the best. Why? Did they not get enough hugs as a kid or is it just that they have extra caveman genes, like wild animals that have to become the alpha male so they can rule the pack.
I’m sure there are studies that have been done by way smarter people than I that can explain all these things & if I cared enough I would research them, but currently I don’t so I won’t.
The thing that I think is harder to explain is why people like to watch sports as much as they do. Why do I like to watch sports as much as I do? Playing soccer & trying to win was one thing, running in a race makes some sort of sense. On the surface of it though watching other people do these things, especially in such vast numbers is rather odd. Are we trying to live vicariously through others who have greater natural talent, greater desire to succeed & more lucky breaks than the rest of us?
There is certainly something addictive about the excitement of a good sporting event, I’m sure there are all kind of chemical reactions going on when your team gets a score in the last second to win the game. Especially when you’ve committed whatever length of time to get to that stage in the game, invested emotionally in the process, to get that victorious elation, that rush, that’s the payoff & it feels good.
Then there is the other aspect of being at the game, not tv watching but being there. There is something wonderfully tribal about being in the crowd, especially at a football game in England. The noise, the songs, the tension, the release when you score. It is very emotionally powerful, it is how I got sucked into putting Leeds United way out of position in my priority list for so long. It’s like the ultimate drug & all you have to do is stand there & watch. It is also a great stress relief, where else can you go & scream at the top of your voice, saying almost anything imaginable, and be welcomed & encouraged to do it. I used to love mid-week games at Elland Road after a stressful day at work, it was wonderful to let those frustrations out screaming at the game.
Sports, on the surface it is such a strange concept, yet on the internal level, for whatever the reason it makes so much sense. I am very glad for sports in my life, even more glad though that I get to enjoy them as sport now, not as such bizarre religion as I used to.
One of the things I’ve struggled with since coming to Christ is balancing my love of sports with a more balanced outlook on life. Another thing is not conforming to the society of abuse that exists in sports, that has been tricky as it was so ingrained in me. When you look at it from the outside, the things that were said at the football games I used to attend were horrifyingly bad, yet it was normal & I was a part of that. How do I keep my love of sports if it means being part of that? Well it’s simple, just because I like sports, just because I enjoy watching games, doesn’t mean I have to behave like everyone else. I have to be strong enough to be different, to let my light shine, that way I get to enjoy something I love & at the same time I get to reflect a better way to live & be true to myself. It’s taken a long time to get there, I still stumble, but I am much more of a sports fan now that the sports psycho I was before.