The Drama of Sport

I wrote this reflection on why I love sport, and feel a bit bad when people just casually dismiss sports as meaningless, for my new blog following yesterday's win.

Is it okay that I don't feel
like I want to live anymore?

Yes, Bobby, that's normal.

* * * * *

Team sports are senseless. The ability to throw a ball through a hoop, or kick one between some sticks better than anyone else is, at its core, an ability without any real value in a purely human need sense, despite many fans' resistance to such blasphemy. As somebody who cares so much about a bunch of strangers' collective ability in these fields, I can see the argument and admit it. Sports only mean anything because we allow them to mean something. What those who argue against the intrigue of spectator sports often fail to grasp, however, is that sports only mean anything because we allow them to mean something. And we allow them to mean a lot, and that is why they are so special. With every kick of the ball, countless humans around the world experience the latest plot twist in a truly unscripted drama in which even the characters don't know what's ahead. The fact that the wave of emotions is being dictated by what is ultimately an arbitrary set of rules and goals does not change the fact that those actions have very real consequences to the untold masses, and that with those consequences comes higher tension and drama than I've ever experienced in even the best works of entertainment fiction.

Sports have brought me some of the highest highs and the lowest lows I've ever experienced and that is in no way to say I've led a life without personal happiness or sadness. It's simply that once you've jumped into the wild world that is sport, there're so few "real" opportunities to invest so much into wanting something for which there is never a grey result at the time of reckoning. The decades of bitter disappoints hurt, and it never gets easier, but man, after you've spent 5, 10, 20+ years wanting something so bad and coming up short time and time again, it's hard to match the feeling when suddenly you have it. The ability to win a game may not really mean anything, but it's certainly not meaningless.

Perhaps the best way to explain why I love sport so much is to point out how much different a game feels when it has been pre-recorded. You're still seeing all the same action and drama, and knowing the same consequences as if you were watching live, but it feels off. You're missing something. Something that is always present live, whether you're in the stadium or watching at home alone, particularly in today's globalized world -- whatever you're feeling at any moment in a sporting event, be it good, bad or anything in between, you're experiencing with thousands, or even millions, or other people. You have a community of people who understand and sypathize when things go to shit. A community of people with whom you celebrate and cheer when things go well, whether you know them or not.

I still remember, and will always remember, the moment Landon Donovan scored against Algeria. I was standing in my family room with my hands over my mouth unable to believe that, as well as America had played, we were on our way out of the World Cup in just a few short minutes. When the first shot was saved, I fell to my knees in anguish at being so close again. A second later I was screaming and hugging my friend as we jumped around the room. We weren't with any of the people in this video physically, but they were not outside of our experience.

And that brings me to this morning, and the Arsenal. I love Arsenal and in doing so concede more of my mental well-being to their hands (feet?) than I probably ought to. And for the past few weeks, that's been a trying experience. All told, Arsenal have things pretty good as far as footie clubs go, but it's been a "long" run without trophies that creeps slowly toward a decade, and coupled with the clubs' multiple oh-so-close finishes every year, it is a cycle of hope followed by inevitable heartbreak, be it early or agonizingly late. This season a run of two league wins from five has any title hopes off for the forseeable future, and nothing that could happen in this morning's early game could change that. And yet, here I sit two hours later as an elated man because we beat Tottenham.

I hate Tottenham. There's no rationality behind it. In fact, my favorite American player recently signed for them, and they also employ a former US-legend in goal. But Arsenal hate Tottenham, and so too do I, because that's how sport works. Now, again, this concept of hated rivalries from slights that happened generations before you were born is utterly mad if you really want to sit down and pick it apart, but you know what's a lot more fun than that? Diving in head first. Especially when you win. Especially when you win after trailing at home for the second straight season. Especially when you win by the embarrassing margin of 5-2. Again. And, on the flip side, many Spurs fans are miserable. I know this because I know sports fandom. And because on a day like this I can't help but pop over to the Spurs sister-blog of my preferred matchday Gunner blog and have a read of the comments. I would never add to them or gloat because I know the way they feel, and there's nothing sporting in kicking a wounded man, particularly not when you know it is inevitable that it's a position myself and my fellow Arsenal fans will be in at some point in the future. Them's the breaks. Sometimes you're the hammer, sometimes you're the nail, but it's always, always, always an experience that can't be matched by even the most talented of writers. That's why sports matter, and that's why I'll always love them until the day I die.

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