I Believe in Sports
When I was asked to contribute to the sports portion of the journal, I was thrilled. I just graduated from college, and with graduation came the end of my career as an athlete, which is doubly painful because after sixteen years of injury-free basketball, I tore my ACL during the pre-season of my senior year. I have been aching to stay attached to the sports world in any way I can. Sports aren't just 'my thing,' or 'my love'. I was raised on it. I grew up in East Lansing, Michigan, home of Michigan State University (MSU), but I was raised a University of Michigan (U of M) fan. I had learned the U of M fight song before I was in kindergarten, and I can remember autumn Saturday afternoons when I wasn't allowed to sit on the couch because my father swore it jinxed the Wolverines. Maybe I was mesmerized by those cool maize and blue helmets, or maybe it was because I got to spend the day with my Daddy. I'm not exactly sure, but those Saturdays began my addiction, I was hooked. By age six, I had turned in my ballet slippers for a pair of gym shoes. In second grade I discovered SportsCenter, which I made sure to watch every morning before I went to school, and I learned how to hold my own in middle school as the lone kid dressed in maize in blue during MSU-U of M rivalry week.
As cliche as it may sound, I learned a lot of my life lessons through sports: discipline, loyalty, teamwork, hard work and never giving up, just naming a few. Sports are special. It's not just putting a ball in a net or running around a track. I'm not talking about miracle last second shots, successful Hail Mary passes or walk-off home runs either. It goes deeper than that. It's a tie that bonds. Being part of something bigger than oneself is irreplaceable. With my high school and college teams we grew close to the point when we stopped being teammates/friends and became sisters working towards a mutual objective.
I have unwavering faith that at the root of it all, sports are beautiful. Even amidst the controversies of contractual hold-outs, congressional steroid hearings, and sex scandals. If you gave a ball to a mixed group of kids from South Africa, Puerto Rico and Japan, I can guarantee you that within minutes, the language barrier would be broken. They would all be speaking the same language of their common goal: winning. Sports have the ability to transcend the level of verbal communication and be a universal language through sentiment.
Reprinted with the permission of the Journal of Urban Youth Culture.
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