Did you watch the Ole Miss/Vanderbilt game? If you didn’t you missed the reason sports is really so popular – it’s live, unscripted drama. And the Ole Miss-Vanderbilt game epitomized it, and made me think back to being a little kid and discovering the dramatic joy of sports for the first time.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Kneeling in front of the television, hands clinched together tightly, hoping beyond all hope, that some how, some way, the New York Mets could score two miracle runs in the tenth inning to tie this crucial World Series game.
It was October 1986. I was just a kid, but I was about to discover the magic of sports. It would be a moment that would change my life forever.
As many of you already know, the Mets would indeed rally on that fateful night in New York. Eventually scoring, not just two, but three runs, thanks in part to the now infamous Bill Buckner error, the Mets would shockingly beat the Red Sox who were just one out away from their first World Series title since 1918. The miraculous nature of that game — emotions turning on the unpredictable bounce of a baseball — was the spark that lit my sporting fire.
Until that point I had never paid much attention to sports. I was still skateboarding, riding BMX bikes and collecting G.I. Joe action figures. I mean I was playing Little League baseball and football, but I had yet to realize the magic that could happen when you laced up those cleats.
Now, all I watch is sports. I find it hard to watch sitcoms and movies sometimes, for I know the truth: the only real drama on television is sports. Sport is the original reality television.
Long before “Survivor,” “Duck Dynasty,” “American Idol,” “Jersey Shore” or any of the “Housewives” series hit the airwaves, sports programming was providing plenty of drama. While it appears that reality shows are unscripted and plots are created off-the-cuff as they happen, sports is the only true canvas for the unexpected. Sports comes with no script, no time frame. It’s just real, live, heart-pounding, nail-biting, teeth gnashing, white-knuckled, cover your eyes, edge of your seat drama.
And the drama’s not saved for the major televised sports. Just go to any youth sporting event and you will find extreme drama. Watch any parents’ face light up with emotion when their child is involved and it’s evident the magical power of sports.
How about when you can hear cheers or moans (or worse) from houses two blocks down during Alabama, Auburn and Saints football games? You don’t exactly get that from the latest episode of “Jersey Shore” now do you? Well, actually, maybe you do, but you get the picture.
And the magic and drama is not just for the big three. Some of the most amazing sports are off the beaten path. Tennis is maybe the best mano-y-mano competition out there, while translating so very well to television.
Soccer (yes soccer!) is great for dramatics, and now becoming a staple on American television. Along with its rabid fans, soccer is so drenched in dramatics it even has actors. Bad, bad actors, mind you. Just watch a match and you will quickly see what I mean. The World Cup is in Brazil this summer, so do yourself a favor and check it out. But be warned though, if you are a true sports fan you might just fall in love with The Beautiful Game.
I realize I’m typing to the choir here. Most of us South Alabamians are sports fans as a birth rite. It basically starts when your parents christen you with your first Alabama/Auburn onesie and ends with a Roll Tide or War Eagle at your funeral, as ESPN so accurately depicted in a commercial.
So most of you love sports as much as I do and realize the magic that’s possible at each and every moment. You just never know, and that’s why we watch. It’s why we gather together and cook out for games. It’s why we pine for football season. It’s why we talk about every game, play, run, pass, hit, pitch, dunk, slam, ace, goal, race, kick, shot like it’s the most important thing ever. It’s passion. It’s drama. It’s magic. It’s love. It turns me back into that auspicious little boy watching those ’86 Mets every time.
Need more of that in your life? Then just pick a sport, pick a team, pick a car, or pick a player and prepare for a wild, wild ride. But be warned, sports can make you feel like a million bucks one moment, then break your heart like your first girlfriend did the next.
Just ask any Ole Miss or Vanderbilt fan after their classic opening weekend clash was decided in the last grueling moments. When you see the instant amazement in their eyes then you will know exactly what I mean.