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A Brief Defense of Sports

September 12, 2013

One of the culture shocks for me in moving to from Laramie, Wyoming to Portland, Oregon last year, was the amount of people in Portland who despise sports.

Portland’s a wonderful place to live in many aspects, but it can also be a frustrating place to live. One the things I love about the people here, is that they generally seem to care deeply about making the world a better place. There’s always a cause to fight for in Portland, always a protest of some sort happening.

But, when there are so many problems in the world to fight passionately against, people can become extremely jaded.

In many ways, Portland culture is absolutely not a representation of the ‘real world’ – for lack of a better phrase. (What even is the real world aside from a reality show?)

It’s been so difficult to find other sports fans out here that one of my roommate’s and my goals for the year is to find at least one friend to watch sports with.

As a kid, one of my first true passions was basketball. I ate, slept, and breathed basketball. My family would laugh at me whenever we’d walk down the street and hear the sound of a basketball bouncing – no matter how faint – because my head would whip around in whatever direction it was coming from.

Sure, sports feature a certain aspect of violence (especially football); and sure, there is plenty of corruption in sports (as there is in every form of American entertainment); and sure, sports fans can be the most irritating people on the planet at times (but so can environmentalists).

Here is a far-too-concise and incomplete list of some of the positive consequences of sports.

1) They inspire and serve as an emotional outlet for billions of people. We need things to cheer for, and we need things that are easy to cheer for, especially in this confusing and fragmented postmodern world of ours.

2) They bring people together. If you’ve ever been a part of a successful sports team, chances are you had to learn to work well with people you don’t have much in common with, don’t particularly like, etc. It also brings the fans together. Just the other day, I was running late on a call for work, and forgetting to put my Pop-A-Lock shirt, I stepped out and greeted the customer wearing my Buffalo Bills sweater. I apologized for taking so long and the lady said, “I’ll forgive you because you’re a Bills fan, and there aren’t many of us out there.” There are infinite example like this, where relationships begin thanks to something as simple as a piece of clothing or memorabilia.

3) Sports are a great metaphor for life. Any athlete who really loves and cares about the sport he or she plays can go on and on about the life lessons he or she has learned simply from playing and preparing to play a game.

4) America’s the fattest nation in the history of mankind – we need a little motivation to stay fit. And sports are fun, too!

5) Sports has played a big role in relieving racial tension throughout the history of the modern world.

6) Sports can be extremely therapeutic. I can speak from personal experience – as someone who often struggles to find ways to  focus, or clear my head: shooting free throws or hitting a bucket of golf balls is often the best cure.

7) They teach people how to deal with failure. Take golf, for example: it’s a very humbling activity even if you’re the best in the world. Same with soccer – and to some degree any sport.

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