If sports were a tangible thing that I could write a letter to, I would start the letter like this:
“Dear Sports, I miss you...”
But here’s the thing - the entertainment isn’t what I miss the most. Certainly the strategy behind crafting gameplans and watching world-class athletes is fascinating to me, but that’s not where my love for sports comes from.
It comes from the unique ability to offer people an escape from reality. To incite emotion, give young children people to look up to and teach life lessons such as hard work and discipline. But above all else, there’s one more reason why I love sports: the spirit of genuine human connection.
Let’s think about Oregon State Football for a minute. I’m currently in my third year at Oregon State, and I’ve sat through more blowout losses than I have wins. Even though the program hasn’t had a winning record since 2013, there’s still thousands of people showing up to games. People tailgating all over campus. Shoot, I even remember my freshman year when I woke up in my dorm room and looked outside to see people already grilling and hanging out...it was 10 a.m.
Men’s Basketball has been better, but there’s still been a fair amount of ups and downs. Despite this, people still show up en mass to watch games. Thinking about this year, I can say with great certainty that the Civil War win late in the season just might be the greatest thing I’ve ever experienced. Charging the court with all the other students who spent hours waiting in line like I did capped off an unreal experience that I’m so happy I was a part of.
Though the list could go on about incredible sporting atmospheres I’ve experienced in my life (don’t get me started about the Portland sports scene), there’s a common thread: it takes thousands of people to create these atmospheres. These atmospheres are created by people spending their hard-earned money to watch something that could be watched on TV, something where the cost of the tickets could likely be more than that month’s cable bill.
The ability to bring thousands of unique stories into one place, all supporting the same team. Nobody’s asking who you voted for in the last election when celebrating a touchdown. Nobody is asking your stance on capitalism when trying to distract the opposition at the free throw line. Nobody is asking if you’ll make money with a liberal arts degree when storming the field after an upset win. Those things just don’t happen.
I’ve worked at a Fred Meyer store in my hometown for the last five years, where I’ve spent breaks from school working as a cashier (shoutout to the lovely people at store 242). Whenever customers heard I went to Oregon State, there were two responses that always seemed to come up: engineering or baseball.
It’s about 84 miles from door to door - my home in Corvallis to my parents’ house just south of Portland. People asked about these two things so often that I started to get annoyed whenever it got brought up. I know that a large chunk of OSU’s market for ticket sales comes from Portland, but it still amazed me how much of an impact one single program has made at such a distance from the source.
That, again, points to why I miss sports. Sure, the tactics behind the game are cool, but I love sports because of the connections that are created both inside the locker room and in the stands above.
This connection is the reason I’m not an engineering major. The reason I’m hoping to one day work for a team in a position centered around developing these connections. Creating a relationship between team and town, giving kids role models to look up to and a place where fans can feel part of something bigger than themselves.
With these things being considered, that letter I started at the beginning would finish like this:
“... but what I miss most are the people. The atmospheres. The connections being created in the stands at every game. It’s not the same watching you on TV. Full stadiums, energized crowds and nice weather are coming. I hope you’re ready - because I know I certainly am.