To a certain extent, I loathe the supposedly “intellectual elite” for their condescending disdain for athletes and sports. Of course, this opens wide the opportunity for us to engage in a little faux psycho-analytical work. I would hypothesize these people were never very good at sports themselves, planting the seeds for their disdain. Their shortcomings are internalized and then, unfortunately, projected onto others for investing in such a “trivial” activity. On a side note, I wonder if these are the same people trying to eliminate competitive sports from schools.
A number of these same “intellectual elite” do not understand, nor appreciate the efforts of athletes. Granted, I do not quite understand the enthusiasm and effervescence of the athletes from my Div III alma mater, but that’s neither here nor there. However, for one to be a successful athlete much sacrifice is required: there is the physical and mental discipline, the psychological fortitude, the time management, the multi-tasking skills, the development of quick reactions and even quicker analysis, the ability to adapt and these are the essential individual skills to be truly great; there are skills necessary to being a team player or a team captain. One has to be able to embrace their teammates with all their differences and regard them solely based on their athletic performance. One has to be big enough to take constructive criticism, yet one has to be tactful enough to aid their fellow team members. One has to be able to lead, exemplifying a model for their teammates. For those of us who were athletes at one point, it’s even bigger than strategy and acknowledging the talents of others. It is bigger than the individual honesty required to realize your own limitations. It is bigger than respecting your opponent and playing fairly. It is bigger than having fun.
Believe it or not, sports can yield noble results. Sports are about solidarity, teamwork, and the potential to inspire. Sports teach you the rewards of collective work. Sports unite. Sports bring people together from different walks of life. People connect through sports. Friendships are created. Sports have always been one of the great ways to bridge gaps and integrate others into the mix. Sports inspire non-athletes. Sports inspire the young. Sports keep a lot of young men in school. Sports motivate a lot of kids to study harder, and even to excel in school in order to play the game. Sports are an incentive with scholarships hanging in the balance enabling students, who otherwise might not, to pursue higher education. The relationship between a fan and an athlete is reciprocal. In fact, many professional athletes have used their influence to do tremendous amounts of good (i.e. Magic Johnson, David Robinson, the Manning brothers). Perhaps, most importantly Sports teach initiative, determination and perseverance despite the odds. Sportmanship is to an athlete as statesmanship is to a public servant. Sports build character.
Check out highlights from the phenomenal triumph of the underdog New York Giants: http://www.nfl.com/videos?videoId=09000d5d8067ec4b&categoryId=events&filter=super-bowl
Sports are about as close we’ll ever get to the glory of 300.
In short, sports are powerful. They bring big brawny grown men to tears. And rightly so.