Sports: Why the Universal Appeal?

With football season looming before us, my thoughts turned to sports and a few realizations. I’m going to be honest and come right out and say it: I don’t understand football. Of course, I know what a touchdown is and I know the overall point of the game. But do I know what every flag means? Or why the play stops every 3-5 seconds (or so it seems)? No, I do not.

What I do know, however, is that all sports – not just football – contain a certain allure. I’ve never been an athlete, yet I understand the irreplaceable feeling of victory. I can put myself in the mind of that runner who just broke through the finishing tape…first place. It’s not only about victory; it’s about all of the time, sacrifice, and dedication that went into the win. As I get older and become a more seasoned teacher, I find more and more analogies between sports and life.

No guts, no glory.

You win some, you lose some.

I can look back on my own 35 years of life and nod my head in agreement. The times I had to swallow my fear and take a leap of faith took guts; it brought glory. Moreover, I’ve won; I’ve lost. My dad has a viewpoint on life that he’s shared with me during my moments of loss. Simply put, he believes that in life- sometimes you are on top of the world…and other times, you feel like you’re under it.

Life has a way…it ebbs and flows. You’re not always high, you’re not always low. And such is the case with sports. My frame of reference is University of Miami football because of my husband’s sincere adoration and fanaticism. He loves the U. The love affair began when he was serving the military in the United States Air Force. While he was a bit homesick (something he won’t admit), he watched UM football from the likes of Georgia, Texas, and even Afghanistan. I guess watching his hometown team achieve victory made him feel close to home…to his family, whom he loves so much, and his friends, whom I’m sure he missed.

Miami New Times pic
Great photo captured by a Miami New Times photographer at one of last season’s tailgates.

Now, I’ve never been a sports buff. I own exactly one pair of sneakers that I bought for myself on mega sale at Macy’s, of all places, two Christmases ago. I use my sneakers when I exercise, and that’s about it. I’m no Sporty Spice. But early on, I jumped on the UM bandwagon because I knew what it meant to my love.

And because I believe that everything in life has a deeper meaning than just what appears to be on the surface, over the years I have found symbolism in sports. I apply this symbolism when I teach my sometimes-lackadaisical middle school students about Life. I connect these lessons to literature whenever I can, but sometimes I use my forum as a teacher to simply give them good advice. Even the most seemingly disinterested sixth grader sits a little straighter and becomes more attentive during these moments.

tailgate collage
Tailgates are about anticipating victory and getting your celebration on regardless of the game’s outcome.

Of course, the tailgates that come before the games are just plain ol’ fun. I love a good party as much as the next gal…and a tailgate is nothing if not a party. My husband, a firefighter/paramedic by trade, becomes DJ Canes. Yes, more than a handful of times I have had to correct a friend’s notion that my husband spins for a living, which is probably due to his handle on social media. Aside from the pounding music, different guys man different grills, cooking up chicken wings and cheeseburgers. Chips and dip abound, huge coolers contain questionable mixed punch that’s poured unquestioningly into oversized personalized UM aluminum cups, and strangers become friends.

rained on but happy.JPG
We got rained on, but look at our smiles! This is the power of sports.

Maybe I’ll never know what a first down is, but that’s not what’s important to me. What matters to me is sharing in my husband’s passion and feeling like you’re part of something bigger than yourself when the stadium goes wild. Sports brings people, across many barriers, together…and that’s something I’ll always be a fan of.

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