Sports are a big part of my life. I’m not athletic – I was my pitch-to-yourself softball team’s catcher, and the only sport that I’ve ever been reasonably good at is ultimate frisbee. But between the hockey and baseball seasons, I don’t spend a whole lot of time during the year without devoted day-to-day following of my favorite teams. I’m a total filmy, but I probably enjoy movies like The Rookie, Invincible, Miracle, Mystery Alaska, Tin Cup, and Bull Durham more than any Coen Brothers or Wes Anderson film. And of course, I’ve been having a blast blogging about baseball for more than 4 years now.
I really loved Vancouver’s Winter Olympics. I’m always in the woods for the Summer Olympics, and the 2006 games were on tape delay, so this is the first time in a long time that I’ve truly experienced the thrill of the international competition. My friends will tell you that I was screaming like a madman when Team USA would make a tough shot in curling, or when Shaun White made a sick run for the half pipe gold medal. But USA Hockey’s dramatic, amazing run to the finals got me going more than the Yankees World Series run this year, or the Devil’s 2003 win that I got to be present for. Even though Canada won, I couldn’t have been more satisfied watching the best hockey game that I’ve ever seen to cap off the best Olympic tournament ever.
What is it about sports that does such a great job of lifting the burdens of life off our shoulders and bringing out the best in us? I think that it is sport’s ability to draw real, unpredictable drama with meaningful outcomes, but at the end of the day, after the best athletes in the world have poured bit of their soul into the competition, no one gets hurt, no one gets killed, and the losers have a chance to come back and fight another day. There are no real losers in sports. Fiction requires us to suspend our disbelief, and real-world drama leaves someone else with an unhappy ending. We get to watch the story unfold knowing that no director or author is controlling the outcome, and that uncertainty can give us the same adrenaline rush experienced by the players in the game. Its no mistake that Bob Costas, one of the industry’s best storytellers, is anchoring NBC’s coverage of the games.
The Olympics offer the purest of sporting events to enjoy. The best athletes in the world are competing not for money or for an arbitrary, artificially created professional club, but for king and country. And now we have to wait two more years to see it again. Until then, I’ll be watching plenty of the MLB and NHL, and waiting for the 2014 USA hockey squad to demand their rematch against Canada.
Photo Credit: Ryan Remiorz – AP