Saturday, May 12, 2012

Do You Have a Favorite Sports Team? GOOD!

I had a very wise friend who wasn't into sports.  Although he played ice hockey in college and I even talked him into playing rugby one season (and he was 48 and out of shape--I was exactly half his age), he didn't idolize anybody or anything that you would see on ESPN.

It was back then that I got to thinking.

I have been a life-long Washington Capitals fan.  They were given the go for the expansion a couple months before I was born, and when they started in 1974 (even though I was only a couple years old and my family members were avid Ft. Wayne Komets fans, who lost in the semi-finals the year I was born but when the Championship the next year), I was already in love with the Caps.

Thirty-eight years later, and the Caps still have no cup.

As I told some friends recently, I am only a fair-weather Washington Redskins fan.  I was madly in love with them, too, up until around 2000 when my daughter was born.  She took a lot of attention, but she wasn't the reason I stopped following the Skins.  I stopped because they kept breaking my heart in part, but mostly because football had lost two things by then: 1.  local players, 2.  team spirit (vs. individual celebrations and money moves).

Back in high school, we didn't have hockey or I guaran-damned-tee I would have played.  I did talk a friend once into playing hockey with me when there was ice outside.  We used brooms and a smashed beer can.  That was as close as I ever got to the real sport.  But who cares--I love being involved in it.  I've been to a zillion semi-pro games.  The Hampton Aces, the Hershey Bears, the Norfolk Admirals, the Syracuse Crunch, the Alaska Goldkings, and I could go on (and quite a few Caps games).  If you don't follow hockey, give it a shot.  It has elements of boxing, soccer, racing, and football in it.  Hard hits, real blood, and the teaser for me is the slippery part--the somewhat unpredictable nature of puck movement on ice.  That's exciting.

What other sport (except fighting, boxing, mma, etc.) will let you fight with another guy until blood is all over the place and teeth are flying and only put you in chair for a five-minute time-out?  Hockey is golden.  It is representative of every desire humans have (almost).  Fighting elements, competition, pain, and if you're watching the right team(s), hunger.

I got to thinking about it though.  Pro sports is a business.  They want your money... tickets, merchandise, licensing, etc.  That's how they'll pay their players to be stars.  Plus, like football, hockey rarely has locals on a team anymore.  The trading game is alive and well.  Most players are European or Canadian.  So knowing all of that, people do ask, "Why like a pro sports team, specifically an NHL team?  What does it accomplish?  They don't represent you or your town anymore (with the constant trades/moves)."  That's true, really.  And I will admit that my love for the Caps is a combination of just having always loved them (not a good excuse to love a team, being that it was a love jump-started by my folks) and having always respected the sport and the team-nature of the players... the odd relationship of a goalie with his mates; goalies are in a class of their own that only they fully understand.  I love the sport, the positions, and the team, and it's history, and now, one of the guys I grew up watching is coaching them (Dale Hunter, scrapper extraordinaire).

Here's the whole point; think about what you love in life.  Your kids, maybe your job, maybe even a politician or his party.  You root for them.  You feel good when they win--bad when they lose.  The quote is that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.  True?  I think so.  The experience of life is about feeling and experiencing.  I have insane love for a few people in my life, including my daughter, family, girlfriend and her daughter, and a few friends, but I also love a sports team.  I love when they win--hurt when they lose.  Far as I can tell, that adds to the experience of life.  The drama of having not won a cup yet pushes every year... a repeating theme.  When will we win it?  It's a cliffhanger.

Why not love a sports team?  Why not add to your experience in this world?  Why not regularly test your ability to love and hurt--to heal and cheer again?  Why not lift that psychological weight-set to strengthen yourself?  It will add passion and depth to your character, as well as growth and maturity in accepting loss.

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