I Believe in Sports (page 3)
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.
During the Civil War of Nigeria in 1970 a ceasefire was created when world renowned soccer star, Pele came to play in the Nigerian city of Lagos. Cote d'Ivoire has been at war since 2002, but when their team qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 2006, peace talks were initiated and a truce was put in place in order for the entire country to support their team, as a whole, when they played in Germany.
Thanks to programs such as the Afghan Youth Sports Exchange, girls who were formerly oppressed by the governing Taliban regime are now participating in athletics. They are able to use sports as a vehicle to travel, see the world, express themselves and boost their confidence in ways that were previously impossible.
Further empowering women, in 1995, Nike released statistics as part of one of their advertisements that stated girls are 60% less likely to develop breast cancer, will suffer depression less, be more likely to leave a man that beats them, and less likely to become pregnant before they want to, if they do one thing. Let them play sports. It is a strong statement that reflects the power sports have to make a positive impact in the world.
I once saw an ad for a website that read, 'If hoops is your religion, then this is your church.' It initially struck me as somewhat blasphemous. I went home and looked up the meaning of the word religion, and this is one definition that I found:
Re*li*gion [ri-lij-uhn] –noun
6. something one believes in and follows devotedly
It made me look at the ad differently. There are people who follow their favorite sports teams with utter devotion, almost religiously, you could say. But more importantly, I know there are people who believe. I am one of them. There is nothing wrong with having faith in something that has the ability to bring people together, reduce the likelihood of terminal illnesses, and help stop wars. In the battle that is a game or a match, someone has to win, someone has to lose, but it's never as serious as death. When you get down to it, sports are just pure unadulterated fun, and in this world we could use a lot more of that. It's worth believing in.
Reprinted with the permission of the Journal of Urban Youth Culture.
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