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What is the point of sports?

So, last night I was sitting at a bar with a friend watching the MLB American League division series between the Red Sox and the Angels on one T.V. and the Monday Night Football game on another. We were having a very nice time having a few drinks, some food, and just catching up. Let’s not leave out the fact that I love sports, so I was also very into each of the games.

Both games were about half over when in walks two guys who proceed to sit down next to us. Let me say that again; two GUYS walked in and sat down at the bar. As much as that sounds like the opening to a bad joke, it isn’t. To my delight, they didn’t bother us at all… until one of them opened his mouth and spoke… not to me mind you, but to his friend and this is what he said: “what is the point of sports?” My mind kind of froze for a second and it wasn’t because of the martini I was drinking. I had to rewind and make sure I heard correctly. Yep, a guy hanging with his buddy at a bar asked what the point of sports is. I was shocked, appalled, dumbfounded, speechless, and any other verb or adjective that can possibly describe a situation that ruins a perfectly good stereotype.

To his friend’s credit, he tried to talk him off the ledge, but he just kept inching his way towards it. He continued to make snide comments about the point of baseball, football, soccer, and even the Olympics. Being a pretty direct person, it took everything in my power not to shove him off his high horse, or at least his bar stool, and set him straight. Instead, I decided to save it for this blog.

So, what do we get from sports? What is the point? Let’s start with unity. We gather with family and friends to watch sports, we unite as cities to watch sports, we have “pools” at our places of work during NCAA March Madness, for example, in honor of sports (for entertainment purposes only, unless in Vegas) and we even derive strength from sports when tragic events strike such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks and hurricane Katrina. However, sporting events go beyond uniting people, we also have exemplary examples of leadership in sports.

There have been some very powerful leaders over the years in this world; FDR, Winston Churchill, Ghandi, just to name a few. Those three leaders happened to flourish in times of great hardship because they knew how to lead and unite people. Herein lies the parallel to sports. What are coaches and managers if not leaders? Take Joe Maddon, the manager for the Tampa Bay Rays, for example. He took a team with the worst record in baseball to the AL East championship this year and into the playoffs. Joe was able to take a demoralized team and create a band of brothers who still have no idea how to quit.

And there have been and still are other extraordinary examples of coaches in our time: Vince Lombardi, Joe Torre, “Bear” Byrant, Pat Summitt, Mike Krzyzewski, Pete Carroll, John Wooden… the list goes on and on. These men and women know how to lead. They understand what it means to create a team, how to instill trust, loyalty, and stand behind what they say. They understand ethics, values, and virtues which all great leaders should possess. Are they perfect? No. But no great leader is. Making mistakes is normal, but leaders know how to admit it, learn from it, and move on. Am I saying coaches are as impactful as leaders of nations? No, of course not. They are, however, phenomenal illustrations of what great leaders exemplify; they unite teams and help them prosper, which in turn unites the fans of those teams and that can be a very powerful thing.

Back to the question at hand, what is the point of sports? Most likely everyone has an answer, but here’s mine: for individuals, sports build confidence and self esteem. Almost more importantly, however, sports unite people together in ways that not many things can. A team with strong leadership inspires passion, loyalty, and unity. And for that I will always be a sports fan.

><(("> Julie Silbar

Julie is a ><((“> Friend of Catch Your Limit, a management and marketing firm with offices in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. To contact Julie email her at julie.silbar@redlion.com or to learn more about Catch Your Limit, visit www.catchyourlimit.com.


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