Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sports Talk: 15 Reasons I'm Thankful for Sports

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Nov. 27, 2013.  
It's been quite the trend over the past couple of years to do the "30 Days of Thankfulness" on Facebook during the month of November. Obviously, showing and expressing your gratitude for things at this time of year is nothing new. Our lives are blessed in so many ways it's easy to lose track of the small things and take them for granted. 

Sports are often times something we see as just 'fun'' or, on the flip side, we sometimes let sports consume us. We can get carried away with emotion and forget what it should really be all about.

So, in honor of Thanksgiving, here are 15 reasons I'm thankful sports have been a part of the majority of my life.

1. Friendships: I'd say more than half of my friendships have originated with sports and even those whom I did not play sports with, there is likely some sports connection in our friendship. Without sports, I would not have many of the best friendships and memories that have shaped my life and who I am. In addition to teammates, though, I've made many friends who were my opponents that allowed me to branch out and make connections with people across the state and country.

2. Silent camaraderie: Not only have I met so many great people in my life through playing sports, but also being the fan of a like team has nurtured many a relationship in my lifetime. Through attending games or fan events, you meet fellow fans and have an instant connection. Simply seeing a stranger in scarlet and silver and giving them a smile and saying "Go Bucks" or "O-H", only to get an "I-O" in return is something that I have thanks to sports. Sports give us an unspoken bond with complete strangers.

3. Building character: As much as I learned in classrooms, so much of my character and approach to life came from my sports experiences. Working as a team and learning to motivate and encourage one another was a huge part of what made sports fun for me. (See #1... there is a reason friendships easily develop in sports!) Every sport I ever played demanded my hard work, which translated into having personal responsibility and discipline. You truly learn that the best things in life are not attained without some pain and heartbreak along the way.

4. Social fun: I'm thankful for the hours and days of fun I've enjoyed throughout my life at events that revolved around sports. Whether it be Super Bowl parties, tailgating at football games, attending my first baseball game with my Uncle--a special memory I'll always cherish--, or simply cheering on my friends alongside other friends at high school and college games. Sports have given me a great deal of fun.

5. Lifelong competition: Becoming an athlete in my youth instilled an appreciation for competition early in my life and I'm grateful for the ability to continue to compete even past the point of being a high school or college athlete. I've played on intramural sports teams and participated in random pick-up games of all sorts. Friends and I have even planned social events centered around competition. I'm grateful to appreciate and enjoy competition and that even as an adult there are ways to compete.

6. Live games: Obviously live games have to exist with the existence of sports, but just imagine if it didn't; if the only way you'd ever experienced any sport was through radio or television. Being a part of the live action, is something special, whether it be a child's pee wee game or a professional game in an awesome arena. Nothing beats live competition.

7. Travel: Thanks to sports, I have gotten to travel to certain places and see things I may not have seen otherwise. Traveling with teammates is a special memory in general, but getting to go out of state to new places and see new sites is a gift whether it be with your team or to attend a big game in a new place.

8. Sportsmanship: We are taught good sportsmanship from the beginning of our sports careers, but I don't think we always realize it's a lesson that we must learn for life in general. In the end it's really preparing us for so much more than just how to act on the court of field. Down the road, it teaches us a type of self control and professionalism for life.

9. Coaches: Our teammates are one thing to be grateful for, but our coaches are on an entirely different level. Aside from our parents, they may be the only people in our lives that can yell at us or make us cry and we love and respect them more for it. Anyone who has played a sport knows the special place that remains in your heart for your coaches, because they know you in a different way than most. They are special people and I'm glad sports allow them to exist. Who knows, maybe one day I'll have the joy of being one.

10. Fan gear: Who doesn't love to sport (no pun intended!) their favorite team colors? Whether it be getting a new hoodie to wear to games or simply putting together a crazy, creative outfit that is decked in your team's colors, showing off your team spirit in what you're wearing is great and it's always fun to get something new.

11. Food: No sports fan can say they haven't enjoyed some pretty fantastic food thanks to athletics. (I didn't say fantastic for you!) Ballpark food is part of the experience and every great sports gathering is accompanied by excellent finger foods and snacks--if not also a grill! YUM!

12. Numbers: Sound like a silly one? Well, whoever first gave players numbers didn't know what they were starting... Few athletes don't have favorite number; one that is "theirs" and magically brings together all that they are as an athlete. This number becomes important for life. Even as fans, we come to love the number of our favorite players and find ourselves wearing them, painting them on our cheeks or chest and holding up posters to show them off. Numbers gain a whole new level of importance and meaning thanks to sports.

13. Health: Sports help us maintain our health and, oftentimes, learn how to at an early age. Having had to stay in shape for running my entire life, as an adult I still feel the need and importance to keep my body in good shape. Thanks to the workouts I did with sports, I know how to stay in shape. Sports keep us active and healthy and our health is always something to be grateful for.

14. Losing: No one is grateful for losing, but I'm grateful that sports have taught me to accept loss and to grow from it. We all must experience failure and loss in life, and call me old fashion, but I've never been a fan of the "everyone's a winner" approach to sports. In life, you do not always win, but when you do fall short, it's important to know how to learn from the loss and still take a step forward. That is how you come out a winner even when you lose. Learning to lose is one of life's most important lessons.

15. That moment: There is an indescribable feeling one can capture in sports--it can happen as an athlete or as a fan. It's that moment of perfection. It's that moment when all you'd worked for and hoped for comes together and sometimes you do not even know it's happening until it's done and you realize what you just achieved. It's the moment of a big comeback or the win you weren't expecting. It's the moment the person you're cheering for accomplishes their dream that you've been watching them work toward for years. Sports bring us unbelievably bright, victorious moments in life.Moments we remember and cherish forever.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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