Why Sports?

I’m a huge Yankees fan, and a big NJ Devils fan as well, much as I hate the name (for those unaware it actually comes from a legend about a supernatural creature living in the Jersey Pine Barrens known as the Jersey Devil…but still). I did stop watching football, though, and never liked basketball.

Still, it’s a good thing to wonder, the why of it. What’s the point? Why sports?

Well, permit me to give an example.

Let’s go back to 2001. October. 9/11 has just occurred, pushing back the baseball season. The New York Yankees just won the fourth of their four World Series titles in five years, and are now an established dynasty team.

And yet, for the first time since perhaps the 70’s, the nation has rallied around the New York Yankees…because nobody needed a win right now more than New York. And everybody was on their side. Everyone.

This team was not a powerhouse team like the 98′ or 99′ Yankees, but closer to the 87 win Yankees of 2000 that managed to get hot at the right time to snag a World Series title. Perhaps it didn’t seem that way with 95 wins – a sizable number – but their offense was relatively below par compared to previous years. True to form, with the nation on their side, they went down 0-2 in the best of 5 series to the Oakland Athletics.

And then this happened.

That is a ridiculous play. It almost doesn’t make sense. Years later Jeter would swear he practiced for a play like this, which in some ways is even crazier, because that’s pretty much not a thing. But it happened.

Of course the Yankees won the series, and then beat the world record holding 116 win Mariners in six games to advance to the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks…where they promptly went down 0-2 again. Their offense was non-existent.

Games 3, 4, and 5 were held in New York City. Game three was a close game but more or less standard, a one run pitcher’s duel won by the Yankees.

Game 4…well…

Set the scene. If the Yankees go down 1-3, the series is pretty much over. They haven’t hit a lick all series. Bottom of the ninth. 2 outs. One man on. Down 2.

And this happens.

The Yankees won that game on a walk-off home run by – who else? – Derek Jeter, the famous “Mr. November” home run hit just after midnight.

Okay. Series tied. Thing is, the Yanks are still in hot water. They’re still not hitting, and if they go down a game they need to win not one but two games on the road against the D-Backs, who have been a monster at home. Game 5 was almost as pivotal as game 4…as well as the last game played that year in Yankee Stadium.

And it didn’t go well. Down 2. Bottom of the ninth. Two outs. The crowd is quiet. Brosius, the batter, has two strikes on him.

The crowd is on the edge of their seats, but the game is over. After all, once is amazing, but twice? Two nights in a row? In the world series? It had never happened. Ever. Surely it would be too much to expect something like that again.

To this day, this is the single most amazing thing I have ever seen, in any sport. Listen to the crowd. Never has a crowd ever been that loud before or since. Never.

And for this to happen in 2001? Of all years? In this ballpark? Twice?

It defies belief.

The Yankees won that game, but they were blown out in game 6. Game 7 in Arizona had one of the most dramatic ninth innings of all-time, when legendary closer Mariano Rivera – the greatest postseason pitcherever – blew the save thanks to his own error and some bloop hits to bad spots in the ballpark. After the game he sat for hours and answered every question, not making any excuses for his poor night. His reputation survived this game, and despite also blowing a famous game (2, technically) in 2004 he did go on to win one more World Series, and his reputation as greatest postseason pitcher of all time remains intact.

The Diamondbacks won the series. You can’t take that way from them.

But for two nights – two glorious nights – the Yankees shined as a beacon of hope not just for New York, but America. With one swing of the bat in game 5 everything – the tragedy, the horror, the fear – was all forgotten as Brosius’s ball landed two rows back in the left field seats of Yankee Stadium.

As Joe Buck said, it bordered on the surreal.

On that day, the Yankees were the heroes America needed.

And that, reader, is why I watch sports.

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12 Responses to Why Sports?

  1. I understand the appeal of sports to a degree, but like many things in modernity it has become beyond excessive. Players play on Christmas, on Easter, on Thanksgiving, and almost every Sunday of the year. They slowly kill themselves with drugs and concussions, and no one seems to bat an eye. They are gladiators, except now we don’t have to feel like we’re killing them because they don’t die in the stadium. Sports have completely taken over public universities. The World Cup and the Olympics are both notorious for bankrupting countries and corruption. They’ve encouraged immodesty on a massive scale.

    While maybe for one night people could forget the horror, is all that modern sports cost the players and society really worth it?

    • Sports have historically been a part of mankind since at least ancient Greece, in far, far harsher ways than they are today.

      Honestly modern sports – especially baseball – are pretty tame.

      Should they take off holy days and Sundays?

      Maybe, but why would you expect ANY secular institution to respect that?

      • I realize sports have been a part of mankind for a long time, but their implementation definitely seems to be pagan in almost every instance I can think of.

        And you mean a secular institution which still sings God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch? But it really isn’t a question of whether I expect them to respect something; it’s a question of what our response to an institution which doesn’t respect it should be.

        Baseball is probably the most tame, but I think modern sports are just much better at hiding their problems than before.

      • Yeah, a secular institution whose private owners decided to have someone sing God Bless America.

        I think it’s kind of crazy, honestly, to start boycotting things over play on Holy Days. If that is really your benchmark – which it shouldn’t be, since these aren’t Christian organizations – I suggest you go the hermit route.

      • I think we at least ought not be watching on Sundays and Holidays. And honestly I gave quite a few other reasons why I don’t think modern sports are a good thing, my criticism was by far not simply limited to playing on Holy Days. Sure sports may have been harsher in the past; does that excuse the severe problems with players health that modern sports causes?

        Also, businesses aren’t Christian organizations either. It still doesn’t justify making Christians work on Holy Days without a good reason.

        I’m not trying to make an argument that no one should ever watch any sports ever. I agree that there are some social benefits to them, but I think in many instances there are great social costs, from what they’ve done to the operation of universities, to their domination of conversations, to how much they cost taxpayers, to how they are a detriment to player’s health in many cases, etc, which are glossed over or ignored. I think there are far more instances where prudence dictates that we shouldn’t watch or participate than many sports fans are willing to let on.

      • The problems you gave had to do with mental health and well being, but this isn’t exactly the hunger games. These are people volunteering to play a game and accepting there are risks, some more extreme than others.

        I don’t really get why it being done in pagan societies matters at all, though I will strongly challenge the notion that Christian nations had no sports.

        Like everything else, sure, moderation is key. Bread and circuses and all.

  2. GJ says:

    TimFinnegan:

    The sports you speak of are cultic, often for the purposes of Americanism (“On that day, the Yankees were the heroes America needed)”

    • *Shrug* You see what you want to. National pride and the Americanism heresy are two very different things, and while treating sports as a cult is a very bad and far too common thing this post is simply not an example of that unless you’re looking for it.

      • GJ says:

        It’s hard to get a fish to realise the water he’s swimming in.

      • GJ says:

        Let’s try this:

        What is spectating such events? As discussed at TimFinnegan’s site, attending such events is a cultic ritual, of which one main focus is Americanism.

        What is the context of your story? The shock and horror of the faithful due to the events of 9.11.

        What happens at the ritual? A miracle that bolsters the faith and hope of believers.

      • I’m not going to bother with this nonsense.

        Yes, people have very disproportionate reactions to sports, and the extremes it’s focused on in society is bad, obviously.

        If you want to turn that into “My post is presenting sports as a type of church”, that’s your problem, not mine. No, it isn’t.

      • Or, to put it another, ruder way:

        Cool story, bro.

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