The Mysterious Driving Force Behind Sports and Their Fans

James ColtCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2009

Well today, I'm in a very reflective and deeply introspective mood for some reason. 

I should probably be writing a different article that I've planned on writing, and have said in other articles that I was going to write, but I've just got these thoughts that keep popping up in my head that I want to get out.

I grew up in a baseball family.  My dad played baseball through college, and taught me to play so early that I have no recollection of learning how to play, but simply I've just always known.

I, like my dad, played baseball through college, and had aspirations to play longer before suffering an arm injury.

Baseball wasn't the only sport I played growing up, nor was it the sport I was even the best at.  I was actually a phenomenal runner, but I loathe the very core of running competitively.

I played pretty much every sport that I could.  I tried soccer at a young age, but the field I played on was full of stickers so that turned me off quite quickly.

I played football for a little while, but still being a competitive runner at the time, and running anywhere from 10-20 miles a day kept me a little too scrawny to play football.

I played basketball, and was quite good at it, but only played through my freshman year in high school because it interfered with baseball.

I also play tennis and racquetball.  I enjoy bike riding and kayaking, but nothing that I've ever played (short of college baseball) has excited me as much as watching and talking about college football.

I enjoy watching the MLB, and still dream of the day the Texas Rangers finally win a playoff series.  I like watching pro football, and still feel heartbreak over the Oilers collapse against the Bills, and watching them come up a yard short against the Rams.

Nothing, though, compares to what I feel when I watch college football. 

My wife thought I was going to have a heart attack watching Texas take on Oklahoma this year.  After Texas lost to Tech, I had to stay away from this site and ESPN for about a week and a half, because I just couldn't stomach anything that had to do with sports at that time.

I watched with a youthful optimism the OT to find out if Texas was going to make it to the Big 12 championship, and then felt my heart drop before they even showed the rankings because Barry Switzer had an ear-to-ear idiotic grin on his face.

I even had the same optimistic hope the following week that Texas would still be ranked above Florida.  Boy, am I an idiot!

My entire life of following sports, especially the Longhorns, has been one big letdown after another, except for 2005, but boy there was a lot pain I had to endure up until then.

So why do we do it?  I know I'm not alone on this boat.  I've seen fellow BR members go through the same things I have.  All the pain we endure even though we are in no way actually associated with these teams.

Why do we want to cheer on teams that have less than a 1 percent chance of finishing the year as national champion (I know some have more, I'm using simple math 119 teams and one champion is less than one percent).

Especially in a world that is so full of letdowns on a daily basis, why do we let ourselves be so emotionally involved in a team that we can feel our hearts break when they lose?

Do we really not suffer enough already?  There is a depression going on, a war (well actually many wars, but since I'm an American I'll just be very egocentric), we still have racial hatred, religious hatred, sexual hatred, random violent attacks, and the celebrities that we worship are even more screwed up than we are.

Yet, every year, no matter what sport your passion is, we build our hopes up only to have them shatter like we fully know they will, but hope they won't.

I have used two very strong words in this article a few times already, and I think they help unlock the mystery to why we allow ourselves to act in such a manner.

The first word is passion.  Passion is any powerful compelling emotion or feeling.  This is a word that I had heard before and knew about what it meant.  I don't think I'd say it is a word that I ever really used to use much if at all.

Then, one day at a very uninspired baseball practice in college, my coach had had his fill of watching us simply go through the motions.  He forced us to go back into the locker room, wait 15 minutes, and then come back out on the field, and completely start practice all over from stretching.

Typical college students: we all thought that it was ridiculous.  So naturally, we all go out and continue to practice in the same uninspired manner that we had before. 

Well, Coach blew a fuse. He ran us, and then ran us, and then ran us.

Then he sat us down, and began to explain why he was upset. 

This is when I really learned about what passion is.  He asked us if we knew, but know one could really come up with a satisfactory answer?

I would be lying if I said I could remember what his definition was, but the overall message really resonated with me.

If you have a passion for something, then it is something you cannot live without.  If there is something that you are passionate about, then you should never have to tell anyone because it will be oozing out of every crevasse of your body.

We were exhibiting not one single ounce of passion on that particular day, which made our coach sick, because this is a man who is probably the most passionate baseball man I'd ever seen.  He never took a day off.  He never settled for mediocrity, not even at practice.

That is what we needed to play with, and that is what we played with from that point on for the rest of the year.  That year was the banner year for that program, but it still ended in disappointment. 

I had been disappointed before in sports, but never like this, because never before had I so wholeheartedly devoted myself each and every day.  So yes, we were disappointed, heartbroken, and somber, but I wouldn't say we were devastated.

We knew we had done everything we could.  We left it all on the field (so cliche, but true). 

Sure, we could have had some breaks go our way, but those were nothing that we could control, and knowing that we did everything possible left us with a bit of satisfaction because we would never wonder what if, and we could take pride in doing our best.

Passion is what makes us hurt so much when we watch sports, but it is also what makes us feel so WONDERFUL when things are good.  Life would be utterly boring and meaningless without passion.

The second powerful word I used earlier is hope. According to the dictionary, hope is the feeling that what is wanted can be had, or that events will turn out for the best.

Every year, every team across the country is hopeful of what is to come.  Hope can inspire the best in each and every one of us.

Hope can also be a destructive force.  A hope for a better tomorrow could mean terrible things for today.  Just ask any team that has been gutted for rebuilding, or ask those who are in Iraq right now.

Hope is perhaps the most powerful emotion in the universe.

Whenever I think of hope I always I think of the movie The Shawshank Redemption (if you've never seen it, stop reading right now and go rent it). The entire movie was about hope.

Hope inspired Andy to escape his shackles.  Hope helped him survive every day he was wrongfully imprisoned.

Misplaced hope, or the loss of hope causes others to be sullen and suicidal.

Red knew about the power of hope.  He knew it was destructive, and he was afraid of it, but his friendship with Andy helped him to realize the good side of hope.

As sports fans, we have no doubt experienced hope driving us insane, but what about the times that hope has filled our hearts with joy and inspiration.

That is what makes watching sports fun, and being passionate about sports a wonderful thing.

I love talking sports.  I love watching sports.  I love arguing sports. 

I hope the Longhorns win the national championship.  I hope the Texas Rangers win the world series.  I hope the Titans win the Super Bowl. 

"I hope."


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