The Sports World and My World: Sports' Impact on My Life

Mike HempelCorrespondent INovember 9, 2008

Sometimes the best way to truly know a person is to know who and where they came from. And sometimes the people closest to you are the ones who know you the best.

For me, these two statements couldn't sing a more honest tune.

As kids, my brother and I were inseparable, but not always for the best. More often than not, an extended period of time together resulted in a phone call to mom and dad at work, a daily ritual for us two boys. 

We were total opposites; I was more mature and introspective while Nick's intelligence and talents were often hidden by foolishness and insecurity.

But there was one common bond we both shared: our obsession with the world of sports.

A blind hand digging into our memory boxes will reveal one sports moment after another and enough embarrassing team photos to last 10 lifetimes. It was a bond that my brother and I were lucky enough to experience with the best parents two boys could ever wish for. 

Our parents always gave us the freedom and unconditional support to choose what made us happy in life, but from day one it was sports that would be the foundation of our childhood, and the beginning of a family bond that will last a lifetime. 

I'll always remember how it all started. From T-Ball through Little League, my dad was either in the dugout as a coach or as a volunteer umpire. My mom was a fixture in the bleachers, giving love and support to the three men in her life that found great joy and release in a game so pure.

As my brother and I grew older, so did our appetite for other sports. Our teenage years were dominated by Rec-League basketball leagues, with school nights usually ending in a pickup game at the local Rec Center.

As high school approached, my newfound love for football again created lasting memories for a father and his son. I'll never forget it, a Pop Warner game, preseason. I was the starting quarterback. 

It was just the two of us, me and dad—the way Disney stories are created.  Driving up to the game together, talking about nothing, but enjoying everything. 

I threw three touchdown passes that game, and to this day I remember the excitement in my dad's eyes. The way every boy wants his dad to look at him, knowing that he was proud of me, and most likely happier than I was. 

Through our high school years our priorities switched from being the star athlete to being the star in the classroom. 

Politics in a small town played a large role in the demise of our sports careers, but it created a bond between two brothers, two parents, one family. It taught us life lessons. Lessons that can't be taught through lecture, but only through experiences. The lessons and memories only found on the field and in the locker room, with friends and teammates alike. 

Today, and for the first 21 years of my life, my brother has been my best friend and my parents have been my No. 1 supporters, role models, and best friends. Not to say our family wouldn't be as close today if it weren't for sports, but there's no mistaking its impact on our lives. 

As I sit back and reflect on my life, on my sports career, one thing became clear to me. It wasn't the trophies and accomplishments and accolades that were most important to me or my parents. It was the ability of sports to sew threads of friendships, memories, and a bond between a family. 

I'll forever remember the backyard football, basketball, and baseball sessions spent with my brother and dad. The brotherly battles, standing toe to toe, each trying to gain the other's respect and admiration. That is why I love sports, and that's what the world of sports has given to me in return.

So when people ask who I am and where I come from, I smile. I know through all the trials and tribulations of life, I have people around me who love me and care about me, and nothing can come between that.   

My life's defining moment comes from family through sports.

It comes from a family dinner at Christmas time in my hometown city of Cincinnati. My dad looked at us two boys, brothers and friends, his two sons, and said, "Watching these two grow up and become best friends was the happiest moment in my life."

It's a moment in my life I'll never forget. Even at the time something struck a chord, and I knew right then and there how special those words were to me.

And as I think back, the common bond, the sole reason behind two brothers who couldn't get along, couldn't stand to be around each other, was sports.

So parents and children alike, get up, get outside, and create the same kind of memories I created with my family. Get out, compete, make friends, and enjoy time spent with family and friends.

Because in the end, the losses will be forgotten and only memories of happiness will remain. After all, in the end, we're all winners.