Why Sports Help Me

Not me doing sports, obviously. That’s bizarre and more than a little disquieting to even picture. But for many people, sports, or more precisely, following a particular sport, team, or player, is something for which they feel a deep abiding passion.

For me, it’s baseball. And even though I’m about to relate something specific to me, I think many people have had moments like this with other sports and other athletes. And while some might argue that such devotion to adults playing children’s games is foolish, I think that’s a sad rubric to apply to life. Anyway.

I’m mildly giddy this morning because Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run. Is that silly and shallow of me? Perhaps. But I would also say this:

For me, baseball has the ability to make me feel, for brief moments, like I felt when I was a kid. It’s been one of the few constants in many people’s lives, an unbroken chain of events flowing from events in a continuous, if ever shifting narrative. What Aaron Judge accomplished last night is something no one in the American League (and in my view and the views of many others, no one in the National League has completed LEGITIMATELY) has before. In the thousands upon tens of thousands of individual seasons in baseball history, he has accomplished something unparalleled.

He did something all of us at one time or another have dreamt of but can never realize: he carved out a piece of immortality last night. And, in the smallest of ways, those who’ve followed this remarkable pursuit from its inception, well, we get to warm ourselves a bit by basking in that deathlessness.

Over the top? I can’t disagree. But then, so many of life’s great moments are.

That the man who accomplished this feat has done so without personal histrionics – when he hit the ball, he didn’t stare self-indulgently to admire its rainbow-like arc, he didn’t flip his bat with a self-indulgent flair, he didn’t pound his chest – makes it all the more beautiful and rare. He put his head down and jogged quickly around the bases, like you’re supposed to, without antagonizing or embarrassing the pitcher by showboating. He just went about his business (albeit with perhaps the trace of a smile on his lips). Just like he’s done 61 other times this year.

Is a man hitting a ball more important than grinding war overseas, or poverty, or racism, or a country scarred with dissent and grievance? Of course not. Neither is a great poem or painting or song. But poems and novels and music and painting – all great art, however you define it – serves as a consolation for us amid all those other trials and traumas we have to contend with.

But like art at its best, what he has done has shown that we can also accomplish, amidst the ugliness we too often perpetuate, moments of transcendence. And arguably better than being able to take in a great novel or movie, we felt the intensity and intimacy of getting to witness Aaron Judge’s accomplishment as he created it, bit by bit and day by day.

On second thought, I don’t think it’s so silly and shallow after all.

9 thoughts on “Why Sports Help Me

    1. I agree. A large part of why this is such a wonderful moment for many people is due to how humbly and respectfully he comports himself on and off the field. The rare public figure who is worthy of being a role model

  1. Beautifully written and I’d argue this post is a piece of transcendence itself. Even without seeing Judge’s 62nd home run you’ve made me feel like a part of the moment.

    I think there’s a reason that sports metaphors are rampant – down to the last out, touch base, hit it out of the park, sliding into home. We get to envision what it’s like to face big moments and win or lose. And then when we face some of our own, we can call on that vision of how we’d like to handle it, whether we do or not.

    Perhaps Judge’s accomplishment and the character he showed creating it, as you put it so well, helps us all believe that we can step up to the plate and do big things.

    Great essay, Jack!

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