Opinion: Sports Matter in Society

Many people ask me why I am invested in sports as much as I am. What makes sports so great and wondrous that it prompts some to salivate? And why do sports leave many people sitting and asking “What is this stuff?” To those who have asked that question to sports enthusiasts like myself, sit down, grab a lemonade, and give me your undivided attention.

Sports are a way of life, and as cliché as that may sound, think about it for a second. At Boston College, every student receives a gold shirt with the words “Boston College Superfan” embroidered on the front and a class slogan on the back. And where do students normally wear that shirt? At sporting events. At the game, we cheer as a community and when BC scores or makes a great play, we yell in approval and high five one another as if we have known each other forever. When BC makes a bad play, we complain and demand that someone be fired or taken out of the game. Emotions of happy and sad, joy and agony—these all take place at sporting events, and these all take place in our lives.

Recently, The Motley Fool published an article, asking the question “Is it time to kill college sports?” Before any Superfans take pitchforks and torches and ask for the head of the creator, allow me to defend their stance for a brief moment. The Motley Fool argues college sports are no longer about the love of the game, but the love of the money the game brings in. The highest paid public employee is a head coach of a collegiate athletic program in 40 states. Furthermore, the article went out to dissect how the importance of athletics at colleges has caused a rise in student debt. And according to a survey at Purdue University, college sports don’t do much for the long-term satisfaction of undergraduates.

The Motley Fool makes a compelling argument, one I agree with. I mean, don’t you want to find a way to lessen your student loan debt or to curtail rising tuition costs? But there is one thing The Motley Fool didn’t take into account. Sports may have become a cash cow, but they still haven't lost their place among society. And we won’t have to look far, because Boston itself provides enough of an example of the importance behind sports.

Photo courtesy of Mark Wood/Flickr

Photo courtesy of Mark Wood/Flickr

The Boston Marathon is a time where Massachusetts takes off a day titled “Patriots Day” and gathers as a community to cheer on the runners and take a moment to enjoy a day off with family, friends, and the Boston community. That community was tested in 2013 when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the marathon. From the moment the first bomb exploded, the community worked together, responded to the injured, and gave comfort to those nearby. Though that moment was fleeting, what was permanent was the newfound dignity Boston cultivated—despite having to deal with such a horrific event.

Sports.

At the first Boston Bruins game, the national anthem was performed more beautifully than ever. Over 17,000 in attendance joined together and sang, holding flags and Boston Strong paraphernalia to display not just strength, but community. Only sports could do that.

When Koji Uehara struck out Matt Carpenter to clinch the World Series, Boston cheered, seeing a sight unseen for over 95 years. But even two sights are more poignant than that strikeout. Firstly, David Ortiz, the man who followed the bombings by saying at the first Red Sox game “This is our (expletive) city,” saying “This is for you Boston” and secondly, Bostonians taking to the streets and kissing the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Only sports could do that.

Or how about at BC, where we wear red bandanas during football games or during the Red Bandana 5k race in memory of Welles Crowther ’99, who played lacrosse at BC and gave his life for others at the World Trade Center on 9/11? Only sports can offer such a wide memorial with such a positive outlook.

The Motley Fool makes a great argument, but you can’t argue that sports aren't important within communities. A chart I used in a research paper details sports and a sense of community like so: it is a cycle consisting of administrative consideration, common interest, competition, equity in administrative decisions, leadership opportunities, social spaces, and voluntary action. We can’t just eliminate sports due to certain parts of the cycle not working properly—in this case, how we administer capital among college sports. After all, it’s not just in college sports. FIFA is under scrutiny for its practices, specifically regarding where the World Cup takes place and the Olympics.

College sports aren’t the problem. It is the deadly sin of greed that plagues sports. And even with greed alive and well, a student section still cheers when its team scores a touchdown. A player still points to sky after a goal, a strikeout, or home run in honor of their religion or their family. And holistically speaking, sports provide something positive in a world that is more gloomy than bright. You can see from reactions of the American Outlaws in the World Cup or from Superfans who tailgate all over campus and join together at Alumni Stadium as one to cheer on our football team after a hard week of studies.

That is why sports, since the beginning of time, matter and will continue to matter when I’m gone and until the world ceases to exist.

And that, everyone, is why I love sports.

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