Sports aren’t any fun unless you have someone to root for. Everyone has their favorite team and favorite player. I have tons of athletes that I love and tons that I hate. Jacoby Ellsbury was the most recent, and I’m still extremely bitter about his decision to go to the Yankees. If you’re reading this, Jacoby, you broke my heart. Being so devoted to a franchise or an individual that’s out of your hands can be frustrating and disappointing. It’s also an enormous privilege. You cry when they lose. You still usually cry when they win. No matter what, you’re always, always loyal.
My favorite player of all time is my brother Jimmy. I could get into what makes him such a great athlete and teammate and sibling, but he really doesn’t need the ego boost. I’ve been watching him for years as he went through tee-ball, basketball, football, and baseball. I still tear up every time he steps onto the mound because it really doesn’t make sense to me that he’s so grown up and playing for a college team now. He’s the class clown, the recipient of sportsmanship awards, and my best friend. He’s also the reason that I got to take a vacation to Florida during Spring Break.
Earlier in the month, I got the opportunity to go down to the RussMatt Baseball Tournament to watch SUNY Brockport’s baseball team compete. This was the end of a very long run without seeing a single baseball game in person, so I was thrilled. The boys were great and won quite a few games (and lost quite a few as well). Of course, the weather was beautiful compared to snowy New York. However, this was only a small part of what made it great.
Every new team is like a family, if you do it right. Regardless of the sport, when people come together for something they love, the dynamic is incredible. Spectators from every team are there to enjoy what you enjoy. Talking to people will show you just that. It’s like an enormous extended family. They bicker and scream at each other in the worst cases, but for the most part, everyone becomes a part of something bigger.
The officials are like your great uncle who can’t see very well and no one pays attention to them until they say something you don’t like. The opposing teams’ fans are relatives who have violent outbursts and maybe talk a bit too loudly. All of these people serve different roles, but when you look at the big picture, it’s something kind of beautiful. For me, I get the extra luck of actually calling some of these people my real family.
My parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings, and more are always crammed together in the home stands. As much as you can call this “just a game”, these games are the glue that holds my family together. After generations of cheering for the people we love the most, the fields, parks, and courts have become our dinner table. It’s where families come together and support each other the most.
Your favorite team may trade your favorite player. Your favorite coach may go into retirement. You may lose the championship game that you worked all season for. But, when the game stops being a game and starts being a lifestyle, fandom is forever.