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Sports is a saving grace

Praise be to Tim Tebow/ NBC
Praise be to Tim Tebow/ NBC

The Carillon’s attempt at a pseudo-religion gaining hold

There is a hip-hop artist who is called MIMS, the acronym being music is my saviour. However, being a sports lover of the highest degree, I have created a slightly more athletic variation of the above short-form. After all, sports are some people’s saviour(s). So, SIMS. Go ahead, EA, sue me. I take that back, I’m poor and so is my newspaper.

First of all, even though I am writing this article in the relatively insulated confines of the Riddell Centre – the failings of deferred maintenance have not yet expanded to insulation issues, after all – sports can save you from the prairie temperatures that are currently ravaging our surroundings. Instead of curling up with a container of ice cream and angst-ridden music, turn on a meaningless NBA game and watch millionaires humiliate themselves in front of thousands of people.

On a more serious note, for many of us who chose to pursue sports (regardless of how successful we were), did so in order to escape. New York’s Madison Square Garden is colloquially referred to as the Mecca of basketball, a gym as the church of the same sport, and LeBron James refers to himself as The Chosen One. Forgiving LBJ’s self-directed ego inflation for a second, there is a redemptive aspect of sports. These versions of escape, whether they be dribbling a ball, shooting a puck, or, in the case of UFC, punching someone in the face, are performed for many of the same reasons that readers pick up a good piece of fiction. Sports allow us to forget ourselves. To a certain extent, they make it possible for athletes to shed the anxieties of the world and commit themselves to a new mission – don’t tell me you were tired of the religious being spit forth from these pages already.

Sports can save, if given the opportunity, people from the unhealthy obsessions of the modern period. No fat shaming will be found here, but athletic pursuits do allow people of all ages, abilities, insert inclusive categories here, to participate together. If sports aren’t for you, no worries, but they are a legitimate option. Heavy-ish topic, so let me insert a joke. Why did the first version of water polo fail? Because all the horses drowned. PETA, now it’s your turn to not send me angry letters.

This is to say nothing of the communities that inevitably form around even the most obscure of sports. Don’t believe me? Tune into Rogers Sportsnet on a particularly slow weekday afternoon and you will likely find one of two sports being shown: poker and darts. Both, while not being considered traditional games, are followed by a wide range of people. Just take a look at the massive throngs of people who can be seen watching competitors chucking darts against a board, accompanied by a man belting out scores as if they were lottery numbers. ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY. One of the first sports to break through on colour television was snooker because people could finally tell the difference between the colours of the balls. Yes, really. The snooker community is filled with a host of characters. World Champion Ronnie Sullivan once proclaimed, “‘Everyone knows me – seventeen days is a long time. I am up and down like a whore’s drawers.” Stay classy, Ronnie. The champ himself has also spoken about snooker as being his escape, perhaps that is why he has retired and returned a number of times.

Which brings me to another point: the fact that so many sports figures come out of retirement hints at the power of the sporting environment. Humans are slaves to routine but, more than that, professional sports figures, as much as the DH in your local beer league, find solace in their time on the field of play. Leaving that hallowed ground can spell doom for the athlete; that is if their transition away from the athletic life is not handled smoothly and methodically – the failures of which are cause for much concern and are fodder for a whole series of articles. If you want to write that section of hard-hitting journalistic work, feel free to contact your favourite campus newspaper that happens to be named after a bell tower.

Right, shameless pandering aside, the point is this: sport can save a person from many things, boredom, loneliness, and a lack of purpose being chief among them. People say the same of many different mediums and activities. Writers and musicians come to mind, but so too do research projects for the academically-inclined, a completed crossword or Sudoku puzzle for the knowledge sponges among us, or a liberating eating session for those of us who find solace to be best contained within the edible world. In short, all kinds of activities and actions can be, and often are, cathartic.

So, next time you want to try to feel the sweet release of stress-relief, try picking up a basketball, joining a campus recreation event, going to a hockey game, or even watching the Leafs lose on TV.

Note: that last one is only relaxing if you are not a Toronto hockey fan. Alternatively, if you are an athlete, try something new. Relax in a way that engages some new muscles. Read a book, go stargazing, chug some coffee and listen to conspiracy theorists. In other words, do something to get your mind off of the real world, at least for a little while.

About John Loeppky

I am an athlete with a writing problem, or a writer with a sports problem, you decide. When I'm not editing, playing wheelchair sports, or advocating for the disabled, you can find me de-stressing with friends.