Why Sports Make Me Feel Alive

I’m going to do something risky here. First, revisit a topic that my brilliant colleague Jack Canfora recently covered inspirationally and beautifully in Why Sports Help Me. And secondly do something I’m not qualified to do by giving a sports recap. But as Wise and Shine is a community of writers and readers, I’m thinking you all will be generous enough to go with me on this.  I promise – there’s hope at the end.

I think I’m best described as a generalist sports fan. That is to say I like sports, usually tennis, soccer and football but don’t avidly set my schedule around watching a particular game. Until recently that is when the Seattle Mariners made it to the MLB playoffs for the first time since 2001.

The Mariners played the Toronto Blue Jays last weekend for the Wild Card playoff best of three series. The Mariners started out strong in the first game and won 4-0. In the second game, the Mariners were behind 1-5 when I turned on the game in the 4th inning. And then they had a terrible fifth inning where the scored went to 1-8. I thought the Mariners were done for.

But then they had a major rally with two big hits when the bases were full and ended up winning that game 10-9. The look on the Toronto Blue Jays’ faces when they both lost and were thus out of the series was heartbreaking. It made me think of Wise & Shine regular reader Jane Fritz’s post cheering on the Blue Jays as they finished out the regular season and made me hurt for this opposing team and all their great stories.

So the Mariners proceeded to the next part of the playoffs playing the Houston Astros in a best of five game series. My friend that follows these things say that Houston “has our number” and hasn’t been optimistic about the Mariner’s chances but we showed up to cheer them of for their first game on Tuesday. The Mariners took an early lead – and lead all the way until the bottom of the 9th inning when a bit hitter for the Astros came to the plate. Houston was down by 2 runs, there were 2 outs, 2 men on base and then the hitter was down by 2 strikes…and he hit a home run. Game over and Houston won.

I know – I’ll never make it as a play-by-play announcer in the big leagues but now that I’ve described the scenario, I’ll get to my point.

First, what had happened to the Blue Jays, leading all the way through and then losing in the end, had now just happened to the Mariners. I felt a sickening pit of disappointment in the bottom of my stomach but also my empathy for all the Blue Jays fans deepened by a mile.

Second, watching a pitcher struggle to close out an inning that has gone terribly wrong is like reliving the worst day you’ve ever had at work when you just want to go home. Or even worse, when he gets replaced on mound in the middle of the inning and has to walk to the bull pen – it’s like someone jumping in when you are delivering a presentation because you’re doing such a bad job.

Third, the elation of watching a team pull out a victory when one seems impossible is pure magic. At the end of the Mariners/Astros game on Tuesday when the Astros had been behind the whole way, the camera focused on a young boy about 9 years-old who was in tears as he stood next to his dad by the fence. He was burying his face in his mitt. And the camera swung back to that very same boy when Houston won and his smile was a home run. It didn’t matter who I was rooting for at that moment, I was so happy for the joy that was bouncing him up and down and into his father’s arms.

All those emotions – pride, competitiveness, joy, disappointment, despair, grief, enthusiasm, elation, empathy, sympathy – we get to experience in one game. In a world where we can sleepwalk through life, a game watched with interest can crack through our shell of “I’m fine” and let us experience the depths of valleys and the tops of mountains. It reminds us we are alive!!

I can’t help but feel hope when tuned into sports. Hope that we all make it through our tough moments. Hope we can come back from defeat. Hope that we can roll with winning some and losing some. Hope that we can face big moments with courage and grace.   So when feeling cut-off from life, watch a game. Like today, 10/13 at 12:37pm pacific time – Mariners versus Astros. May we all win!

Do you like sports? Have a favorite sports movie?

For more posts like this – a little story-telling mixed with philosophy, please visit my personal blog at https://wynneleon.wordpress.com or follow me on Instagram @wynneleon

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(featured photo from Pexels)

17 thoughts on “Why Sports Make Me Feel Alive

  1. Thanks, Wynne. I enjoyed seeing you do a type of blog I hadn’t seen you do before. I’m an avid football fan. I also love to watch track and field meets; although, they’re not very often televised. When I thought about why I like to watch certain sports and not others, I discovered that I enjoyed being a spectator to sports that I played as a youngster and had some skill at.

    Let me say something about football. I should hate the game. Because I played it in high school, I destroyed one of my knees. On a play that I’ll never forget, I had about a ton of humanity fall on my knee forcing it into a position the joint was never intended to be in. This lead to two knees surgeries, years of rehab, and more than a little frustration–I actually will have to rehab my knee for the rest of my life. The silver lining (if there is one): My knee has taught me much about Stoicism.

    By the way, the doctor’s have told me the next surgery–if there is one–will have to be an artificial knee because they have taken my current joint as far as they can surgically take it in its current state.

    But I don’t hate football. I love it. I still have many beautiful memories of what happens when the ball is snapped. When all eleven players start moving, it’s like the most beautiful ballet you can image. Everything is choreographed, and when everyone does what he is supposed to do, there is real magic. I can close my eyes and still see the plays unfold, in slow motion, in my mind’s eye.

    1. What a beautiful description, Troy! I appreciate this comment so much for the perspective you bring. The past and present – the memories and skill. I’m so sorry about your knee but I’m glad that even in that was some great lesson. In Troy-fashion, you are an amazing learner and educator!

  2. The only sport that I like to watch is basketball and in the US you are great in that. In Europe the most popular sport is obviously football (soccer, to be clear) but we also have very good basketball players and teams. My son was named after a fantastic Serbian basketball player, Sasha Danilovic, whose nickname is « I can ». He made 4 points during the last 26 seconds of a match. I watched it again now, and I felt the same emotions of that day. Watch it, it’s worth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe-3678bDGM . I understand very well the title of your post – Why sports make me feel alive. For me it’s only one sport, but it makes me feel alive.

    1. Wow – that’s a great video of some great basketball play. The tension as they shoot is so big! I love that his nickname is “I can” and what a fun legacy behind your son’s name. Love this comment – amazing what sports can inspire!

  3. I love that you’re venturing into new territory, Wynne, and don’t sell yourself short as a ‘play by play’ announcer. Second, third career? Maybe! If you venture that way, bring me along! I always wanted the role of ‘color commentary’ – whatever that is! I’m enough of a sports fan to know it’s not fashion critiques, okay? And…the most poignant part of your post? This: …”watching a pitcher struggle to close out an inning that has gone terribly wrong is like reliving the worst day you’ve ever had at work when you just want to go home”. Oh yeah. This baseball fan FELT that. Yup. Tough viewing, for sure. xo! 😉

    1. Oh yes, Vicki!! It’s you and me…venturing forth to our third careers. Love this idea!

      Thanks for your encouragement and echo on watching a pitcher. Oh, it’s tough – I’m just glad none of my career performances are televised! XOXO

  4. You won’t be surprised to hear that I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Wynne. Most definitely not because the Mariners lost – I was rooting for them – but because you describe so well the passion with which we can follow our favorite teams. And it takes us away from all the angst, the never-ending angst, in the world. The Mariners had a great run. The sad thing is that I have no AL teams left to root for this year. Definitely not the Astros or the Yankees. And LA’s Mets are done too on the NL side. On to basketball, hockey, curling, tennis, and golf!! 😏

    1. Wait a minute, Jane…the Mariners aren’t out yet! We still have some hope that they’ll pull the series out!

      But you do a great job of describing why it’s fun to watch. Yes, the never ending angst in the world!

      Thanks for reading and encouragement!

  5. I’m not a big sports fan, but I was feeling the intensity of the game as you described it! So fun. And this part made me realize how sports play a vital role in society: “In a world where we can sleepwalk through life, a game watched with interest can crack through our shell of “I’m fine” and let us experience the depths of valleys and the tops of mountains. It reminds us we are alive!!”🤍

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