Monday, August 12, 2013

Sports: A Love Story

This is my 200th entry in this blog. After 2+ years of Black History, Hipster Santa, and lots of randomness, I decided to mark this occasion by writing about something near and dear to my heart: sports.

It's easy to become disillusioned with anything, even something you love. I love sports, but with all the steroids and money and illegal activities and egotism and media involved, even someone like me, who truly enjoys sports, can get a little cynical. When the best players are cheaters and the best teams are the ones with the most money and the best programs are the ones that "recruit" the best, it's not hard to fall out of love with sports -- and sometimes I almost do -- until I realize one important thing: that's not what sports are all about.

I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to letting ESPN cloud my perception of sports. Watching sports television can quickly make you lose sight of the essence of sports and view it as an unfeeling business full of overpaid clowns. Even though that's not a completely inaccurate description, it is an incomplete one. The essence of sports is competition and hard work and will and overcoming adversity and all that good stuff you can find on a motivational poster. It's corny, it's cliche, but it's true.

Though it's fun to watch LeBron James dunk over a defender, or see Miguel Cabrera launch a 450-foot home run, or witness Tom Brady throw a 60-yard touchdown pass, that isn't what sports are to me.

It's spending weeks breaking in your glove until it feels like an extension of your own hand.

It's not leaving the gym until you hit five jumpers in a row.

It's getting hit so hard that it actually feels good.

It's catching a ball in the gap that you didn't think you had a snowball's chance at getting to.

It's knowing the basketball's going in as soon as it leaves your hand.

It's when scrappy and persistent defeats talented.

It's turning the ball over, then hustling back to make a play on D at the other end.

It's the chubby guy struggling to run a mile on his neighborhood streets, but never quitting.

It's the undersized kid that works and wills his way into the starting lineup.

It's playing your heart out, not just for you, but also for your teammates.

It's beating my dad in one-on-one after hundreds of losses and knowing it's the first time he's glad he lost at anything.

It's a million personal, intangible moments you experienced on the practice court or the playing field that aren't just memories, but part of who you are.

Sometimes I ask myself questions like, "why does it matter so much to me that the Braves win?" When you get down to it, it's just a bunch of grown men playing a game. I think it's because, at some level, everybody on that team and every athlete on any team also loves sports. They could read this story and know exactly what I'm talking about, how I feel. They were also kids who liked the smell of the diamond and the feel of the bat in their hands. They're like me, just way better at baseball.

Call me crazy, but I think God loves sports too. I honestly believe He put that spark inside us that fuels competition and drives us to be better, to endure, and to overcome. It's like Olympian Eric Liddell says in Chariots of Fire: "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." I think loving sports is embracing something God put inside of me and I honestly feel that, in a way, sports can give us a better understanding of the Lord -- and that's something worthy of a 200th blog post.