Monday, April 14, 2014

Sports Will Always Be the Tie That Binds

By Clint Switzer

It's funny how you remember certain things from your childhood as if they occurred just a few hours ago.  Certain events take place that provide us with such powerful nostalgia that we cannot conceive of our lives without the memory of those events. I don't remember much about my first several birthday parties. I can only vaguely remember winning a spelling bee when I was in third grade.  I have sparse memories of watching my first rated R movie. But I will never forget the first time my dad took me to see the Chiefs play at Arrowhead Stadium.

I recall how my dad cursed profusely as he attempted to negotiate a parking space. I remember how the crisp December air felt like knives against my face as I got out of the car. I remember the smell of the barbeque permeating throughout the parking lot. I remember standing in our upper-level seats in awe of the players warming up before the game.  I recall how I looked up at my dad during the National Anthem and noticed that his lip was quivering and tears were streaming down his face as the anthem called up memories of his own years as a storied athlete and military veteran. As long as I live, I will not forget the way the crowd roared when the Chiefs were announced and revved to a frenzy each time they scored a touchdown.

It is an experience that I have relived many times since and one to which many Americans can relate. That is because sports has a special way of uniting us. They unite us with our family, our friends and with 70,000 perfect strangers that we might find ourselves high-fiving and hugging in the midst of an intense athletic competition. There is nothing else in the world that provides the emotional roller coaster. In many ways, sports are the ultimate reality shows. We watch to be inspired, to witness greatness and even to see failure. Some of us live vicariously through our favorite teams. When they lose, we can't sleep that well, and we probably lack concentration at work the next day. In many ways, sports are symbolic of life itself. The quest for stardom and success and the bitter feeling of defeat are things we all encounter in our daily lives.

The truth is, sports are not for everyone. Competition does not make every human's heart race in nervousness or make everyone's spine tingle when they witness a 19-year-old-kid make a half court shot to win a game. And that's ok. Some might beg the question, "Why do you care so much about something that you have no control over?" or "The players you cheer for have no idea who you are, how could you possibly care that much?" And for me the answer has always been simple: because sports unite us. Sure, we sports fans all love to go out to the stadium to cheer on our favorite teams on a perfect fall afternoon, but it will always be deeper than that. When the Twin Towers fell in New York City on September 11th, 2001, we quickly tried to pick up the pieces of a nation that was a damaged soul. NFL stadiums across the land stood as one that next week as we honored the victims with football-field sized American flags and rousing National Anthems. The games would continue and would be symbolic that we would not crumble under the threat of terror. Last April, two bombs went off during the Boston Marathon as three perished and over 200 were injured. Just a few days later, 18,000 Boston Bruins fans sang the National Anthem as one during one of the most emotional scenes you will ever witness. Why did our eyes stream with tears upon seeing this occur? Because sports unite us.

Now, when I attend sporting events with my father, I still find myself glancing over at him during the National Anthem. His eyes are still wet of course but the difference is, 9 times out of 10 there are tears welling up in my eyes as well. For every game that I attend, I am taken back to a past memory from my youth. When I am at a baseball game and someone hits a home run, I am reminded of the time my dad took me to Royals Stadium in the late 80's when they played the Blue Jays and how Fred McGriff's home run sounded like a gunshot when the bat connected with the ball. And when I see a father with a little boy on his shoulders entering a stadium, I often wonder if that boy will remember the day with as much fondness as I recall random days from 25 years ago. Sports remind us of the good days in our lives. The days when we sat amongst throngs of fans and helped cheer our favorite team to victory. They remind us that our lives are not defined by the rigors of a dead end job or the many tragedies that surround us in society today. And that is because sports unite us.

1 comment:

  1. Great article Clint! I agree 100%, even as a fan of a hated division rival I have always felt at home at Arrowhead. The reason for that has nothing to do with its home town residents, but instead it's because I'm with like minded passionate (some more than others) sports fans! Also, there is no better feeling in the world than being on the a field or court and hearing the National Anthem! If you don't tear up then you may not be capable of feeling emotion!