More than just a game

Sports have always been an integral part of my life. As a kid, I was the player that hated to lose more than anything. This fiery competitive attitude has been with me ever since those days, and it has molded me into the die-hard sports fan that I am today. Occasionally my emotions would get the best of me when I was growing up. When they did, someone would always try convincing me that “it’s only a game.” Despite the best efforts of my friends, parents and coaches, this idea never satisfied me.

There is so much more to sports than meets the eye; it is not simply a game. The box score can never truly capture the essence of the game or tell the whole story. In fact, sports can teach us a number of important life lessons:

1) Sports remind us how important it is to aspire to make our dreams a reality. Today’s star athletes are not just celebrities; millions who wish to become the next superstar idolize them. It may sound cliché, but it is imperative for kids to shoot for the stars and follow their dreams.

2) Sports promote unity and strong communities. Nowadays, fan bases are frequently given titles such as Cardinals Nation, Packers Nation and even the Billiken Nation. The idea is that this community comprises fans from around the country, stretching from coast to coast. This sense of unity transcends differences in gender, race and beliefs unlike anything else in our culture. All that matters is the people’s shared sense of purpose, derived from their passion and love for the team.

3) Sports remind us to believe and to never lose hope. Miracles do happen, we see them on the field of competition and in the context of our own lives. It was a miracle when the American hockey team beat the Soviets on their way to winning the gold medal in the 1980 Olympic Games. People called it a miracle when the injured Kirk Gibson hobbled around the bases after he hit a walk-off home run for the Dodgers in game one of the 1988 World Series. Even the most casual fans will cheer for the Cinderella team to make a miracle run to the Final Four during March Madness.

The most meaningful miracles we experience in life are the ones that take place outside the lines, though. As the legendary coach Jimmy Valvano once said, “Every day, ordinary people do extraordinary things.”

We see normal people who suffer, fight, and overcome life threatening diseases and injuries on a daily basis.  If we have unwavering hope, anything is possible.

Times of tragedy and hardship transcend the relevance of sports and remind us of what is truly meaningful in our lives. One of these tragic occurrences took place on Monday, April 15 at the annual Boston Marathon. The day will go down in infamy, dreadfully remembered as the “Boston Bombing.” Three civilians were killed and hundreds more were injured in this senseless act of terror.

Sports are trivial in comparison to life and death circumstances. They are, however, a vital component on the road to recovery. In the wake of the bombings, the Chicago Tribune displayed a tribute to Boston’s sports teams on the front page the following day. It read, “We Are Chicago Bruins, We Are Chicago Patriots, and We Are Chicago Red Sox” paying homage to Boston’s sports teams. In New York, the Yankees honored their sworn rivals at their first home game following the tragedy. They displayed the Red Sox logo alongside their own, stating “United We Stand.” The Yankee Stadium crowd even sang “Sweet Caroline,” the anthem that traditionally rings through the confines of Fenway Park in Boston. Perhaps the most riveting, spine tingling moment took place before the Bruin’s first home game following the tragedy. A sellout Boston crowd stood together before the game and sang the national anthem in perfect unison. If hearing those fans doesn’t move you, I don’t know what will. This single event displayed the tremendous patriotism, unity and strength of these people. We call them Boston Strong.

Sports are an indispensable part of the culture in America and throughout the world. Times of tragedy, such as the horror of the Boston Marathon bombings, remind us of our priorities and what is truly important in our lives. It doesn’t matter if you are from Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Chicago or here, in St. Louis. We all play for team USA, and as Americans we will never cease the fight for freedom and justice. Years from now, nobody will remember who won that hockey game in Boston. What will be remembered is the way that sports united a community that was torn apart by tragedy. It was much more than just a game.