Well, I guess this is it – the last thousand words you’ll hear from this columnist (for at least two years that is). Why you may ask? Allow me to elaborate-
This summer I will be embarking to Cuernavaca, Mexico on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder-day Saints. Yes, I’m Mormon. Yes, for two years I’ll be trotting along the equator, attempting to testify to people what I know to be true, inviting them to read a peculiar little blue book that has changed my life.
While I have been simultaneously preparing for my mission and going to school, I have still maintained this weekly sports column. Which raises the obvious question that I have even been asking myself. Why?
Why would someone like myself, who claims to have such an eternal perspective, such a different set of priorities in my life, care about sports? Why care enough to write a column ranting about something as inconsequential as a basketball score? Does it really matter, in the grand scheme of things, how many yards Ben Roethlisberger passed for in the Super Bowl? (123) Why do numbers such as 755, 100, 2,632 and 5,084 mean so much to me?
A wise man named Alma once said, “All things denote there is a God; yea, even all the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it.”
When I watch in awe at a home run, I don’t see a ball traveling 400 feet into the cheap seats. I see the payoff of a lifetime of practice and determination manifesting itself in the form of a 34-inch piece of wood snapping through the air at over 60 miles per hour and making contact with a five-ounce ball wrapped in leather. I see the triumph of a silent battle of wit and wills between the pitcher and batter; I see something special.
I may be bordering on blasphemy, but I find faith in sports. Sports – since my earliest memories of childhood – have always resonated with me.
Perhaps it’s because in sports there is a level playing field; at least more than in any other facet of life. Everyone has to play by the same set of rules and regulations. For 60 minutes, 9 innings, 48 minutes or 10 rounds, everyone has an equal opportunity. Sports are founded on the idea that everything is fair (as humanly possible) and justice is served when the best man wins.
It could be argued that this is why the public responds with such outrage to scandals like steroids or gambling; anything challenging the sanctity of sports often shakes our foundations. In a world of corrupt politicians and scheming CEOs, if we can’t trust sports and the athletes that play them, who can we trust?
Playing sports as a child, it was basketball that taught me the value of sharing when that extra pass resulted in an easier shot and better team chemistry. We’d call our own fouls, call it when the ball went out of bounds, until eventually we got to the point where no words needed to be said; we’d just raise our hand when we knew we had committed a foul. We’d hand the ball over to the other team when we knew we’d knocked it out of bounds. In a very real way, we learned how much better life was when everyone was honest, cooperative and owned up to some personal responsibility.
Maybe sports are so important because of the simple outlet they can give for a father’s love. Whenever the right words could not be found to explain or offer comfort in any given situation, there was always one solution: “Grab your glove.” So we would play catch. Sometimes silently, sometimes while talking about insignificant things (like say – sports). And we’d throw and catch, throw and catch. Throw until all the problems of the world seemed to melt away and our only focus was getting into that perfect rhythm. That rhythm where you picked out in your mind exactly where that baseball was going to go, and your body followed suit and made it happen. Now that was therapeutic; that was relaxing. That was the creation of a bond through sports that allowed both of us to express our care for one another without ever having to articulate it into words.
Those bonds created in sports can be seen everywhere. When players retire, they don’t talk about missing the game as much as they miss the clubhouse or locker room. They miss just being around the guys on the team. They miss the kind of relationships that can only be built when a group of men (or women) come together and give everything they have – leave everything on the field – and fight for that common goal.
Looking at all of these cases, you can’t tell me these things don’t carry over to a person’s life off the field. You can’t argue that all of these effects of sports don’t build character and you can’t convince me that sports aren’t a microcosm of life.
So, getting back to the central question, are sports important? Are they a worthwhile endeavor? I can only answer with a resounding “yes.”
There are obviously more important things in life – the next two years of my life come to mind – but we are all blessed to have this world of sports.
Thanks to Frank for giving me my weekly soapbox and painstakingly editing roughly 24,000 of my words, and thanks to my readers for finding the patience within themselves to sift through my obscure references and rants. Thanks to all my friends and family who have supported me along the way. But most of all thanks to – well – He knows.
In the words of a far better journalist, “Buenas noches y buena suerte.” Good night and good luck.
Bradford Applin is a sophomore journalism major. For the next two years, important events in the world of sports should be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.