Why do I like sports so much? I am a grown human being who screams at the TV, argues tirelessly with less-informed trolls on Twitter, spends too much money on team apparel, and “invests” way too much time watching games and events on my iPad (convincing myself that I’ll simultaneously do homework on my laptop).
Most of my teams aren’t even that good. The Cincinnati Reds currently sit at 3-18 and are 29th (out of 30 teams) in the ESPN “Power Rankings.” My NFL team, the New York Jets, went 5-11 last year and still don’t have a franchise quarterback.
West Virginia University, my home state team, is usually decent, but will probably never be great. The United States Men’s National Soccer Team did not even qualify to play in the World Cup this summer.
So why do I read scores of articles every week on those teams? Why do I willingly seclude myself to watch a game that doesn’t really matter? Why do I get excited even for events other than games (like the NFL draft and MLB’s Winter Meetings)?
I am convinced it goes beyond my competitiveness. I also think it goes beyond just entertainment—an escape from reality.
There are two big reasons in my book. First, I want to be (or at least feel like I am) part of something bigger than myself.
Many times, sports connect me with family and help create friendships with other fans. For just a little bit, I want to be a part of something big and grand and, hopefully, victorious.
Yes, I crave the feeling of adrenaline rushing through my veins. I love the pride that surges through me when “my” team claims victory.
Walk-off home runs, game-winning goals, and buzzer-beating shots all fill me with excitement and passion, but they aren’t the reason I love sports. I love them because of the connection it gives me with other people.
The second reason really is similar to the first. Getting excited about sports is just part of who I am.
I remember, in the summers as I was growing up, I would go outside after dinner, grab a basketball and shoot hundreds of free throws while listening to Hall of Fame radio broadcaster Marty Brennaman describe Ken Griffey Jr.’s “prettiest swing in baseball.”
I inherited the Reds fandom from my dad. Stories of the Big Red Machine were common, and we usually took the 3.5 hour trek up to Cincinnati once a summer. Growing up, my summers were filled with barefoot adventures in the nearby creek, playing made up games with my younger brother and Reds’ baseball. Baseball is in my blood.
Similarly, I learned how to be passionate about WVU football from my grandpa. We used to go to the game versus Pittsburgh, WVU’s biggest rival, every year. My first Mountaineer garb came from him, and I still love watching games with him. He has passed on the fandom to most of the family. In fact, every family wedding ends with everyone singing a rendition of “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Largely because of him, football is part of who I am.
This is why I am so passionate. This is why I crave them. Sports transcend mere excitement and are more than just a method of evading reality.
Maybe my teams aren’t good and maybe they never will be. But sports are about much more than that. They unify people; they reveal who we are. At least, that is what they do for me.
Guest Sports Columnist