By Ken Reed
The Huffington Post
March 12, 2015
I believe the fundamental allure of sports is that everything — good and bad — happens much more quickly and intensely than in our day-to-day lives.
Long-time PGA tour golfer, Mike Reid, might have captured the essence of sports best when he said, “Sports is like life with the volume turned up.”
Reid was philosophizing at a post-round press conference after blowing a lead on the final couple holes of the 1989 PGA Championship. A win would’ve been his first — and ultimately only — victory in one of golf’s four major tournaments.
On that fateful day, Reid went on to say about sports, “The friendships are tighter, the laughter is louder and some nights seem a little longer, like tonight’s gonna be when I’m trying to figure out what happened.”
The intro to the classic ABC series, Wide World of Sports, provides another clue as to the reason why sport has its claws permanently embedded in so many of us.
Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport. The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat. The human drama of athletic competition …
Ah yes, the human drama of athletic competition — the glorious ups and the torturous downs. Sports are the ultimate reality TV show. It’s the complete unpredictability of sports that fuels our anticipation of the next game. We typically don’t like unpredictability in our personal lives – our egos cry out for control — but there’s something captivating about it in SportsWorld.
The upcoming NCAA basketball tournament, aka March Madness, is a perfect example. It’s annually one of America’s favorite sporting events, filled with upsets and memorable plays. And if you’re one of those people that don’t understand why the rest of us give so much time and energy to sports, watch the NCAA tourney-ending video montage set to the song “One Shining Moment.” This three-minute clip never seems to fail to capture the tournament’s twists and turns, and the emotional rollercoaster of young athletes giving their all in the quest of a common goal.
… One shining moment, you reached deep inside,
One shining moment, you knew you were alive …
How true. Sport at its best requires athletes to give more than they thought they could — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And because of that, whether we’re experiencing sport firsthand as athletes, or secondhand as fans, it is, as Reid said, “life with the volume turned up.”
A person is rarely more alive — or living in the moment — than during an intense sporting event. There’s no regrets about the past or angst about the future in the heat of competition. Life is now.
Another appealing aspect of sport is that it removes the frustrating shades of gray that dominate our normal existence. In sports, there’s a scoreboard. Within three hours or so, you know if you’ve won or lost.
We rarely get that in our often-humdrum daily lives. Usually, we don’t know if we’re winning, losing or simply getting by.
After eight hours of work, it’s hard to answer the question, “Did I win today?” You might feel good about that report you gave your boss, but you’ll probably never really know if it will end up impacting the company’s bottom line in any meaningful way.
It’s the same with our relationships. How am I doing with my spouse? As a parent? You may be following the current gold standard for parenting with your six-year-old but you won’t know if you’re making a difference as a parent for another 20 years or so — if then. There are so many uncontrollable environmental, genetic and individual factors involved, that you may never be able to truly determine if you won or lost as a parent.
In sports, there’s a clear winner and clear loser. And it’s determined relatively quickly. Even full seasons reach closure, with champions crowned, in a matter of months.
I’ll close by returning to the Mike Reid quote above. Reid said “friendships are tighter” in sports. I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve been blessed with many friendships from my working life. Other friends have come through non-professional organizations and informal associations. And a few friendships have blossomed simply from sharing the ebb and flow of life with neighbors.
But my best friends have all come through sports, either people I competed with in high school, college or later in life, or simply through a shared passion for a particular sport or team.
In the end, I think the best thing about sports is the camaraderie involved, the relationships that are cultivated. Whether it’s a bond with a parent, grandparent, cousin, sibling, teammate, or friend, sports connect people — often for life.
And ultimately, that’s more meaningful than any walk-off homer or game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer — no matter how exciting those moments can be.
Ken Reed is Sports Policy Director for League of Fans.
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Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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