Why Sports Are Important
By Eric Davenport
In a thousand years, when historians look back on our time period, they will come across many interesting things. Our thirst for democracy, our revolutionary feats of engineering, and our advanced steps in technology. The one thing that will stand out more than anything, however, is our unquenchable obsession for sports and athletics. Among the ruins of time, a select group of events will emerge from the past few generations; among them the Battle of Britain, the September 11th attacks and the moon landings. However, there will also be legends and myths surrounding ancient heroes who fought on ancient battlefields. Some won’t believe the stories – Babe Ruth calling his shot in 1932, Sidney Crosby scoring the golden goal in 2010, Paul Henderson sinking the Soviets in 1976, and Bobby Thompson lifting the unlikely New York Giants over the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951. All of these moments stand still in time. They moments will never be forgotten.
Like Achilles triumphing over Hector in Troy, the world watched as American Joe Louis sent German Max Schmeling into defeat at the dawn of the Second World War. Like Odysseus emerging from trials and tribulation to set foot on Ithaca, the world watched as Willis Reed limped out of the tunnel at Madison Square Garden with a torn muscle in his thigh, only to lead his New York Knicks past the favourite Los Angeles Lakers to claim the NBA championship. The author, however, is not Homer – the author is time.
Such moments are so important because of the effect they have on human civilization. Why did we care when Bobby Orr flew like superman after scoring the winning goal in the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals? Why did we care when Bobby Charlton lifted the English past the Germans in the 1966 World Cup? Why do sports matter? In a thousand years, when historians look back on our society, they may not find the answer. They may not see how sports create mythical and heroic situations, or how sports inspire perseverance and toughness, or even how sports bring us together as a people. If they miss that, they miss a key pulse in the heartbeat of civilization.
Sports are mythical. They create heroes, villains, sagas and legends. They inspire us and change us. Miracles are made realities, people are made champions, and underdogs are crowned victorious in the blink of an eye; in one swing, one shot, one pass, one punch, or one final sprint, history is made. Sports exist because they set up remarkably exciting, dramatic, and beautiful moments. Sports, like any good story, create situations that people connect with. Everybody, for instance, can connect with the underdog. When we watch as the unlikely long shot triumphs over the favourite, something plucks at our heartstrings, something inspires us to do the same. Sports retell ancient stories, like David and Goliath, while creating their own. These stories will never die.
Amongst these heroic stories is the realization that athletes are some of the hardest working humans on the planet. It takes extreme courage, strength, and toughness to perform at such a high level in such a difficult and demanding vocation as [exists in] sports. Athletes are heroes that people look up to, heroes that inspire their fans to go above and beyond the call of duty, to strive for excellence in their daily lives. Whether a sports fan or not, there is something that we can all learn from the determination displayed by athletes. Not only are athletes forced to come back from brutal injuries and do their job under extreme scrutiny and pressure, but they also need to be strong enough to endure defeat. Defeat is something all of us, at one moment or another, must face in our lifetimes. If you’ve ever failed a test, you know what it feels like to experience defeat. You feel like you’ve let down yourself, your expectations, your family and your friends. Last year, the best team in the NHL, the LA Kings, lost 36 games in the regular season on their way to winning the Stanley Cup. Imagine failing 36 tests in one year. Would you have the courage, the strength, or the toughness to keep going, let alone finish atop your class? The fact that professional athletes are able to rebound from the bitter sting of defeat and continue fighting is something that can inspire all of us.
Each city has its own unique character. If you travelled from the mountainous coastline of Vancouver to the rough and tumble neighbourhoods of downtown Philadelphia, it wouldn’t take you long to notice the difference. All cities are unique, each possessing its own sense pride and entitlement. In ancient times, city states would send out their finest warriors to fight on behalf of their citizens. This process, albeit modernized, still exists today. Sports are a continuation of an ancient tradition in which a city’s finest representatives go to war on behalf of the people who live there. Because of this, sports unite the citizens of a city in a unanimous cause. Conflict unites citizens. When a country goes to war, its citizens rely on each other for survival. Patriotism increases, and the war brings people together. Likewise, when a city’s sports team goes off to fight a battle, the people become united in an equal pursuit. Just as sports can unite cities, they can unite nations. When Vancouver hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, something special took hold of our country. When we watched Sidney Crosby score the Golden Goal, a country jumped to its feet in a unanimous celebration of victory. We had taken the challenge of hosting the Olympics, and when Crosby went five hole on Miller, we all knew that we had risen to it. Ever since those victorious days in February of 2010, our country has become more proud, more patriotic, and more united then ever before. Sports are our replacement for war. Something in the human hearts longs for competition, and sports are what satisfies that. When we watch our heroes travel to distant lands to fight on our behalf, there is something that brings us together, whether it be our neighbourhood, our city, or our country.
It’s the bottom of ninth. Two outs. Full count. The winning run is at the plate. Two cities, separated by three thousand miles of land, hold their breath in a unanimous stillness. The pitch comes in. Fouled off. Sighs of relief from both sides. The pitcher, standing atop his mound, slowly exhales. His city exhales with him – the calm before the storm. The batter watches the pitch come in, and uses every ounce of muscle in his body in an attempt to make contact with a white ball possessing a diameter of only 76 millimetres. He does. The crack of the bat is audible across the world. The ball lifts high into the air. The people rise to their feet. The commentator is tracking the ball, his voice growing louder and louder with every passing word in a flurry of excitement.
“It’s going back, back, back! There it goes! It’s gone! HOME RUN!”
The crowd goes wild, and as the hero rounds third and touches home, the people react in a mixture of emotion. Some jump to their feet and scream, others begin to cry, some run to the streets, blowing horns and waving flags. Others just sit silently, watching the pixels on their television either with a smile spreading across their face or their jaw dropping in utter disbelief. In a thousand years, when historians look back on our time period, they will see time stop for one single moment. For the single moment when the ball shot through the air, and the people jumped to their feet, they will feel an inexplicable sense of history – framed in the annals of time.