my title is a bit of a cheat – there are multiple reasons for sports, but i’m a little prideful when it comes to writing, so i went with a definite article to sound authoritative.
* * *
i’ve had this idea dancing around in my head since my buddy tyler (here-to known as skinny-floor-lamp-tyler, or SFLT) and i went to the 1st and 2nd round ncaa tournament games at the then-rbc center in 2008.
tyler and i held season tickets to nc state basketball that season (the rbc – now pnc arena – was/is ncsu’s home arena for basketball), and state was terrible. we saw a lot of s****y basketball that year, so we were excited about the potential of seeing some decent teams play.
davidson, a small college near charlotte, and star-player stephen curry were the underdog/local favorites, and the mostly neutral crowd slowly began to root for the wildcats to play the role of giant killers.
davidson overcame a silly-large deficit against gonzaga in their first game, and faced another seemingly-insurmountable margin against 2 seed georgetown in their second-round game.
the 3-pointer he hits at the 12 second mark capped a comeback from 17 points down, coming late in the 2nd half. you can’t really tell from that angle, but curry dribbles behind his back and pulls up for a 25 foot shot between two defenders.
there are moments in basketball
when everyone in the building
and in the wilderness with ears pressed to a crackling radio speaker
that shot is going in.
as the ball left curry’s hand, 19,000 people who did not know each other, who root for different teams (ncaa tickets booklets are sold to season ticket holders of the home arena and split between the schools assigned to that arena), who ranged from child to the most senior of citizen,
all held their breath, not because they doubted the shot would fall cleanly through the net,
but because they wanted to be able to shout, lungs full of anticipation.
i picked up tyler
in a fit of hysterical joy
and shook him over my head
as if he were a rag doll
and all he did
was pump his fists
and celebrate with me
the idea of sport mattering, of sports mattering, was kindled here. in the rbc, rooting for a team i knew had a solid 2 guard who was dell curry’s son as if this team were my own blood, i realized how importantly unimportant all of . . . this? . . . is.
* * *
i mean, really, ‘a reason for sport’ is so . . . blah. who needs to talk about a reason? let’s talk about (my) the reason for sport.
my reason for sport is this: sports are the most important collective noun i can think of that . . . don’t matter. for the ease of reading and writing the rest of this post, let’s define ‘sport’ and ‘sports’ in my terms.
sport: an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others (ripped from google, bold and italics are my own)
* * *
i need to interrupt for a moment – stephen curry has 11 3-pointers in madison square garden at the moment (10:33 PM). i just heard mike tirico say ‘butter!’ mike tirico is one of the best play-by-play guys alive. steph curry just inspired mike tirico to utter something i haven’t heard since the 9th grade on a concrete court behind enloe high school.
slow-clap for steph curry, everyone.
**edit to add: curry finished that game with 54 points on 11-13 shooting from 3. folks, that’s stupid. sadly, the golden state warriors still managed to lose that game to the knicks with a final score of 109-105.*
* * *
sports: the games of sport. but i should digress here, too. when i say ‘games,’ i mean basketball, football, tennis, baseball (begrudgingly), volleyball, etc. not golden state vs. new york.
if a player knows to cut backdoor when his defender turns away, that player respects and knows the game of basketball.
* * *
the reason for sport is that these games exist, they are real, they have rules, there are leagues for all ages and skill levels,
and they do not matter.
sport is an outlet for the beautifully angry part of our hearts, a place to pour the fire that may build up within us, a place to compete, to fight for something with severity, with urgency,
and it’s ok if you lose.
. . . absolutely nothing happens.
i can (and, sadly, do) watch a state game with full conviction. i can gnash my teeth and tear at my clothes (half of which usually end up in random parts of the house) if things go awry. i can shout for joy and dash across the kitchen floor before realizing i’m only wearing socks and quickly introducing myself to the pantry door.
i can tie my bright red high-tops tight, play a few pick-up games at carmichael, talk a mouthful of s*** with a smirk (oh, and i do), and a win or a loss simply doesn’t matter.
it’s the game that matters. it’s the ability to compete, to temper the flame, to care so much about something that cannot possibly let me down beyond a quick wave of emotion that remains within the lines painted on the floor as i limp down the stairs to the exit.
the reason for sport, friends, is because we need things to care about that do not matter. we need positive distraction, we need to be able to care about something that is not the bills/kids/job/economy/that asshole at work/the in laws, etc.
no matter how many times nc state athletics break my heart, my heart will always heal before the next game, because it was never really broken in the first place. sport (thankfully) also provides a living support group, so i can turn to other nc state fans after blowing (another) late lead, as we stare at our feet and mutter something about the refs and next year.
watch ’em, play ’em, love ’em like you mean it.