Taking a break from the CA Aquatics plan, Tom's comment on my post from yesterday, and my planned post about how CA seems to miss the opportunity to mine the talent that exists in Columbia and hires consultants to do things that could be done more cheaper and with greater sensitivity to the local culture. That post may yet get written... or then again, it may not! For I have seen one incredible football game and I want to write about it before my memory starts to blur and my euphoria subsides.
For those of you who have been institutionalized since yesterday, the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Denver Broncos, 38-35, in double overtime in Denver to advance to the AFC Championship game for the second straight year. They are again in the NFL's final four and will face the winner of today's New England Patriots- Houston Texans game.
I'm a Ravens fan, and in my excitement and fandom last night, as many do, posted all about it on social media. And a lot of my social media friends chimed in on my contributions. One friend of mine, who I recently reconnected with and who I treasure, contributed that they really don't get professional sports. And she is far from the only person I know who feels this way.
So what do sports mean? What do they bring to our lives that will compel us all in this area (at least those who bleed purple and black) to have goofy smiles on our faces until at least Wednesday?
On the basis of things, I shouldn't like sports. At least not pro sports. The thought of people being paid ungodly sums of money to chase a ball around a field should be anathema to me. And not just that, but the money spent on advertising, broadcasting, venues... how many hundreds of billions of dollars of our GDP are dedicated towards professional sports? And wow, wouldn't we be better as a society if we dedicated that effort towards making society better?
Maybe. But I will submit that sports does make society better. Both on the individual and on the mass level. Here are the ways.
As a person, I appreciate sports as the ultimate reality TV. The physical prowess athletes display to me is as impressive as watching any skilled person practice their craft. And when an athlete like a Ray Lewis or a Peyton Manning can bring additional qualities to the competitive field than physical qualities-- passion, strategy, motivation-- that makes my appreciation even greater. For these qualities originate in the mind and the soul and represent the engagement of someone's total self in the cause. Add to that the strategies on the side of the field, the coaching, and trying to figure out what comes next-- for me it all makes a game worth watching as one sports fan.
On a group level, while I have a great time watching a game by myself, it's more fun when watched by a group. As a social activity, a game is to me like watching a movie or going to a concert. You know what you're going to see, but not really, but you do know that you're going to be entertained. Your hope is that the experience is worthwhile. Watching a game with others makes it moreso. I think we have a natural predilection as human beings to prefer being entertained as a group rather than as individuals.
As a society then, what does sports give us? There are demonstrated financial benefits to a city or region by professional sports. For the sake of this blog post I will stay out of the individual choices governments make about attracting and retaining sports franchises and venues. Sports brings civic pride. Sports brings civic identity in a way that no other distinguishing characteristic does. Maybe it appeals to humanity's competitive, maybe even warlike nature, but cities enjoy boasting about their sports teams's prowess. And, oh yeah, we also have these schools, businesses, attractions, cultural features, these are the famous people who were born here, etc.
And as something that is civically-based but which brings us back around to individual attraction, sports gets people who would not otherwise mix to interact. Whether at a game watching party, at the workplace, at school, at the grocery store, wherever-- if you see someone wearing your team's colors, it's an invitation to say "what about that game?" and immediately, you and that person share a common bond. Sports can act to bring people together in a fun, informal way.
So is being a fan of sports for everyone? Of course not. And that's totally OK, of course. But every activity that makes intelligent, thoughtful, decent people temporarily insane deserves consideration, and wondering why this thing makes us so. And so this is how it works.... for me.
And since it's not a post to this blog without a link, this song sums up my emotions about the Ravens-Broncos game quite nicely!