Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Sports Uncensored

November 16, 2004
By Anthony Peretore


I have finally faced the agonizing reality that college is finally over, a notion that perpetually tears my heart out each and every day. I occasionally (every single day) think back to the times when I was able to do absolutely nothing for 72-96 hours straight, except check my fantasy team, use the bathroom or get something to eat. With all of the unavoidable distractions, it was no wonder I found myself holding on to my 2.9 GPA for dear life. As a senior, teacher's were well aware if you had partied the previous night or were planning on cracking one open roughly three minutes after that very class ended. I didn't care though, this was my last year of college. Furthermore, I was on the brink of absolutely hating my classes, being trapped in a political science major, when all I wanted to do was research, study, discuss, watch, analyze, eat, drink, and crap sports. During classes, I filled the time with sports in every way imaginable. I would bring fantasy player rankings in my notebook every day for two weeks before a draft to make sure I was going to come away with a solid team. Or, I would bet a buddy a beer that he couldn’t name fifteen players on a particular team’s roster while the professor babbled on about Minsk. If none of these options were feasible, daydreaming about upcoming games and where, when and with whom I’d be watching them would have to suffice. The beauty of college is that there were thousands of kids my age thinking along the same lines, wishing Monday Night Football was more than once a week or that we could play a flag football game every day until we die. Now that I’ve graduated, well, it really sucks, but I’ve come to the realization that sports still and always will remain a focal point, if not a necessity in my life.

I am currently back home working as an accountant in the finance division of a hospital. I took one, yes one, accounting course in my entire life, yet here I am every day working as an "accountant." I do roughly five hours of true work here each week (my boss' choice), and the other 35 hours are devoted solely to sports. Unfortunately, the bastard computer techs block all the fantasy sites which is like putting a golden retriever in a 70 acre field of Purina with an electric fence surrounding him every 3 feet. Limited to the main sports sites and my word processor, I also plant myself on Instant Messenger so I can talk to all my buddies and catch up on their life adventures. My one friend, an aspiring Caucasian rapper, just wrote to me, "I need your help on some good diss lines, I feel another battle coming tonight." As crazy as it sounds, I am envious of that life that allows him to frequent bars and watch games with buddies or even, in his case, "battle" other young aspiring rappers. While sports were a highlight for me in college, they have now transformed into a necessity here at home. I need random Sonics-Jazz games to unwind and forget that I’m living at home with my mother, stepfather and dog rather than three buddies wearing the same T-shirt for a week. I need football on Sundays to know that after working a forty-hour week there is an entire slate of NFL games on "The Day of our Lord." I need to follow an entire NBA game on a website to make sure Mo Williams gets three steals so I don’t lose this week in fantasy. Knowing all this, I have come to grips that sports have become my greatest companion away from college.

This leads to the common question of why do people love sports so much? Why do we waste our time rooting our hearts out for teams that will win championships only a handful of times (if we’re lucky) during our lifetimes? Why do we intently follow the progression of a group of random players to compete in a fantasy league that we probably won't see one cent from? For me at least, the main rationale is that every conceivable human emotion can somehow be experienced through sports. A great example is the Boston Red Sox. For 86 years, a baseball team with arguably the most loyal fan base in the world had not seen a World Championship. The sorrow, anger, hostility, suicidal thoughts and what have you, built up for 86 (expletive) years. Even though I am not a Boston fan, I can confidently say that waiting all those years to finally win the World Series this October had to be worth it. Millions of people (the majority being adults) found themselves joyfully crying their eyes out and rejoicing with the Red Sox for the first time in their lives. The anguish of an 86-year "curse," as some had referred to it, tinkered with the hearts of this faithful fan base for far too long. Their joy, relief and countless other inexplicable emotions could now be exasperated in every way imaginable. This celebration was not one that could be planned or even imagined until that final pitch was thrown. It’s a moment that will be thought of, discussed, written down and made into documentaries for years to come, but never truly recaptured ever again. In the end however, the recollection for Boston fans of that moment that they knew for sure the wait was over, will bring tears to their eyes until they day they die.

Why do we watch sports? This is why we watch sports. This is what it’s all about. These types of feelings and heartfelt stories happen once in a lifetime, never mind in the sports world. At the most unexpected moments, sports allow us to appreciate the small things in life. They allow us to come to grips with what truly matters such as dedication, loyalty and love. Sports is hugging a buddy in rejoice at the end of a victory or getting a call from that same friend trying his very best to make things better after a loss. It is when the dust settles when we realize we are experiencing something much larger than just a game. Sports allow us to unwind and forget about the every day crap we all have going on. Things aren’t always going to go as you wish in sports, but in the end, there’s almost always a life lesson waiting. When a team losses we get pissed, throw remotes, punch doors, yell at the dog for no reason. When a team wins you could get in a car accident and completely ignore your engine bursting into flames to quickly unscrew your Brewers license plate. The point is, at the end of the day we are better people for loving sports. The entire spectrum of human emotions hangs on every pitch, play, shot, quarter, period and moment. Sports allow our emotions to shine through, emotions we weren’t even sure we had. Sometimes it takes a paralyzing injury, a game-winning touchdown pass, or even 86 years of agony to realize that sports contributes to our lives in hidden ways. No matter what you choose as your pastime, just make sure it adds to who you are as a person. Writing this article and dozens more on utterly meaningless Knicks or Rockets games might mean very little to you, but it means a heck of a lot to me, knowing that sports has and will continue to make me a better person.

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