Why do we love sports? This question has been lodged in my brain for the past month or so, ever since one of my favorite sport teams, the Minnesota Timberwolves, defeated the Golden State Warriors, the team that is NBA's version of the ancient and fabled warrior Achilles, minus his heel. It is a question that I am far from the first to wrestle with and will not be the last, but it is an interesting one, nonetheless. It is one that resonates with anyone who has ever witnessed a game in person at any level or held a ball in their hands or stepped foot onto a field or court. It is one that so many know the answer to, but is difficult to describe in words. Here is my attempt to do just that.
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Sport, in and of itself, is meaningless. Most variations are centered around putting some sort of ball-like object into a goal-like area. In basketball, this means putting a leather ball through a metal circle that is 10-feet off the ground on a wood floor. In golf, that means putting a white ball, with an assortment of sorry excuses for holes dispersed across its surface, into a small plastic cup dug into a well-groomed lawn with varying heights of grass while everyone whispers and claps politely. In hockey, that means putting a rubber slab into a net-laced metal frame while whizzing around on razor-sharp blades looking to clock anyone daring enough to cross your path. Those actions, in the grand scheme of life, don't matter and, really, seem a bit silly when you break them down into their individual components. What is the point?
The fact of the matter is that there is no point. Sports are pointless. But it is exactly that pointlessness that is a major reason why sports are so appealing to so many. Sports allow, for however fleeting, an opportunity to just forget about all the things that do have a point in our lives; they allow us to take a deep breath from the constancy that is the human experience. They allow an outlet, whether it is in playing, watching, or writing about, to escape from our college loans or our difficult day at the office or a personal matter that just seems too overwhelming to overcome.
Sports allow us to take all of our pent up emotion, gathered by hours, days, weeks, years of just living, and channel it into one specific thing for just a moment. And it is in these magical moments that bonds are formed. Whether it is over the thrill of victory or the crush of defeat, these moments forge bonds with those beside us, no matter if they are between friends and family, or if they exist simply within the confines of the arena. There is something so...right, so inexplicitly wonderful, about cheering for the team you consider to be yours with the people around you, whether physically or electronically.
For however short the time span, there is something human, some humanness, in the bonds formed in the heat of the game. And, I guess, that is what it can all be boiled down to: humanness. Sports, for many, are an extension of what it means to be alive. They allow for us to feel many of the emotions that are encountered during everyday life, but as if the emotions were somehow laced with amphetamines. The highs are higher, the lows are lower, and the effects only last for a short amount of time. But sometimes it only takes one of those highs to get hooked for a lifetime, for you to never turn back.
Sports become like that thing you simply can't imagine living without. They begin to bring a sort of "meaning" to life, even though, secretly, you know that that it is a little ridiculous. Those moments, those bonds, those highs, those lows start to become imperative in life; you need them.
Or maybe I'm overthinking this whole thing, maybe the main reason sports are so universally beloved is because people just really love watching other people perform athletic feats at a near superhuman level. However, while that undoubtedly plays a role, limiting the explanation to solely that argument would be taking only a surface level approach to a much more profound, complex subject.
And that, to me, is why sports are so universally loved. They involve taking something that is so meaningless and complex at its core and turning it into something personal, something that is yours, thereby giving it meaning. Sports are a microcosm of life in that we're all just seeking to find meaning in something that can feel so meaningless from time to time.