Greater Than Bread and Circuses

                Sports.  Adrenaline flows through your veins, you jump out of your seat, and you cheer, as your joy and disappointment are tied to the actions of the players on the field.  Whatever sport you prefer, the reactions are often the same; you can’t stop smiling when your team wins and you hope no one notices as you quietly cry in to your beer when they lose.

(Guess which I was doing here...)

                We often dismiss sports as nothing more than entertainment, relegated to the cause of distracting us from our day to day lives.  We gather to watch men and women perform amazing feats of athleticism and engage in heated competition.  They give us an opportunity to live vicariously through those athletes and to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

                This may already be a bit deeper look than most people take at sports, but let’s take it farther.  Competition divides people, it pits friends against each other, it makes rivals out of cities and states, and it even gets to the point of countries facing off as opponents in a (hopefully) bloodless struggle.  However, despite this divisive nature that is inherent in the world of competitive sports, they somehow manage to bring us together. 

                Sports unite us.  Even when they put us against each other, we are united in competition.  Sports are an all-inclusive entertainment.  This isn’t to say that other forms of amusement are exclusive; books, movies, etc. can certainly be enjoyed by just about anyone.  The difference is that sports fandom is a communal experience, to be shared with others, including anyone willing to cheer with you for your favorite team or player. 

                Maybe that’s the thing that makes sports so great, its ability to bring everyone to a level playing field.  Many children find something in common with their parents in sports before finding it anywhere else.  It brings together families and communities in small ways that are rarely brought about by any other means.  Even though the connections of a shared fandom may be small and seem unimportant at first glance, they provide the chance to grow in to something more.  They can shift from a metaphorical field of battle to a common ground.

                Even more poignant are the chances for those who would typically be alienated by the rest of society for some reason or another instead being given a chance to be a part of something greater via sports.  The potential for inclusion is inherent in many of the sports we love, even for people that don’t actually play on the field. 

(Joe Haden and his role model, Jacob)

Will there be scenarios where that inclusion is forsaken and people are driven away for some reason or another?  Absolutely, sadly that’s a part of human nature.  Still, there seems to be something about the simplicity of physical exertion that does away with many of the complexities that exist in our society, and give the opportunity for those that have trouble belonging, to find a home.

One step further down this road of inclusive nature takes us to the possibility of competition to provide everyone with a chance to reach for something that isn’t found in day to day life, glory.  Some of these competitions may not technically classify as sports, but they certainly provide a similar setting for the competitors, a setting in which they can be recognized as something more than another face in the crowd. 

(The story of Owen and Haatchi, who each found a place to belong)

Recognition can go a long way in changing someone’s life, and one person can go a long way toward changing the world.  I’m not saying that sports are a cure-all for our society’s problems, but they may provide us the grounds on which to begin to span the breaks that separate us. 

Therefore I ask that if you are someone who typically dismisses sports and competition as something that is beneath you, or not worth your time, take another look.  Think of the connections that these events give us the opportunity to build.  After all, it’s impossible to find common ground without any ground on which to stand.

Sports give us hope, they inspire, and they give us an escape from whatever may be troubling us in our lives.  However, they also give us a bridgeable first gap in our effort to come together as a species.  And they provide those among us with something to say, a platform from which to say it.

(The story of Brian Banks, and his desire to change the world in which he lives)

(Cleveland Browns receiver, Andrew Hawkins’ views on police brutality and the meaning of protest)

Happy Superbowl Sunday everyone!  Go Packers!!! Oh..... nevermind.

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