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On the Meaning of Sports

I have never been a sporty guy. When I was a kid, whenever we played soccer in the neighborhood, the most prestigious position was the offense. Everyone wanted to be the attacker, but only the kids claiming to be the best could play it. Sometimes, there would be a kid challenging the attacker position, were there would be a show-off of skills, and whoever won, was then new attacker, or the captain of the team. I was always stuck with the position of defense, or sometimes even worse, playing the goal-keeper.  For some reason, these positions didn’t really appeal to hyperactive kids and were seen not as exciting as the attacker, who was on constant run up and down the field. Actually, it was an empty parking lot that we played. Whenever there happened to be a car parked there, an occasional side window ended up being broken by hyperactive kids.

I always wanted to know what the meaning of sports was. I figured that it had to be something beyond being in good shape and having a nice body, otherwise people would just do gymnastics. Why play sports then? The answer has to be beyond teaching teamwork, organization, and better communication skills. Answer has to go beyond something that could be learned in a leadership or speech class. What is the meaning of sport that we cannot find anywhere else? The answer has to go beyond the fact that sport is a multimillion dollar business and playing sports is good for economic growth of the country. In order to understand this, maybe we should look back at human origins and the journey we took to arrive at this stage of our existence.

If I was born some 150 thousand years ago, I am not sure if I would be able to survive quite as well, as me and my group (composed of the same kids we played soccer as kids) would be going though the dense forests with spears in our hands chasing our dinners. I would now be the guy carrying the killed pray, while the others, probably the attackers, the ones who run faster, would be the ones hunting the pray. When we would get back to our little cave, somebody would challenge the tribal leader saying that he is not running as fast as he used to. There would be a show of skills (probably a bloodier version) and we would have new tribal leader. Are sports there to satisfy our primeval instincts and urges? Is sport then an illustration of competition and other human instincts? Is sport an illustration of wild life, survival of the fittest?  Establishment of new hierarchies without really killing anyone, or is there something else to it?

Is it possible that sport is a metaphor for the meaning of life?  Sometimes you win, and sometimes you loose, just as in real life. But no matter what the outcome is, no matter how many times the player falls down and looses the ball, he/she may lay on the grass or floor for a while, then stands up brushes himself/herself off, and starts trying again, until the goal is scored or until the pray is caught. This falling and getting up defines the very human nature – Hope. Even when we are not winning, and the odds are logically against us, we just switch on the irrational part of our brains, and keep moving forward, until we exceed the impossible.

Because of these abilities (going beyond the impossible), athletes are like a temple for the fans. Fans adore them like Gods, wear their jerseys trying to identify with them; collecting pictures of their role models; singing songs and cheers to them to give them power. And then, when the goal is scored, all the fans become like one big family, hugging each other (even though they are strangers meeting for the first time). Then again, on special occasions, they euphorically rush to the field and in the spirit of those primeval instincts and urges, tear the goal post off the ground and throw it in the lake.
Finally, whenever I am cheering on the stands, whenever I am yelling at the referee, whenever I am jumping in excitement for the goal scored or missed, I get transported to that stage of my life when we were playing soccer in the parking lot in my neighborhood, as I get enlightened on the meaning of life. All of a sudden the meaning becomes clear as I run on the field feeling as a gladiator fighting against a goal-post. And when I finally conquer it, and it falls down, I feel the cheers of the fans running through my veins, and I am delighted, delighted with my laugh.

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artrit

Artrit Bytyçi, or Titi, attended Graceland University between 2002 and 2006, during which time he wrote his "Titi's College Journal" column for "Tower", the University's newspaper.

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