I believe in sports. I’ve been playing sports as long as I can remember. My earliest memories are of my two older brothers and I going outside to shoot hoops or to throw a football around. It wasn’t just for fun – we were also desperately trying to escape the screech of my parents’ bickering. For hours, we would play and laugh.
My parents got divorced when I was four years old. I felt like my little world was coming to an end. Lawyers would visit my house, isolate me in a room and ask me which parent I would rather live with. I specifically remember one lawyer, a woman dressed elegantly in dark blue pantsuit, asking me “Who do you love more: your Mom or your Dad?” The divorce was ugly and stressful. I cried every day.
But I had one salvation. It was around that time I began playing basketball in a community league. I can vividly recall some of my earliest games. I once scored for the other team. On more than one occasion, I was told by officials to “back off” after trying to guard my opponent full-court, which means following him through the entire court– a no-no in youth basketball. I believe these memories of playing are so pronounced because for that short hour of hectic play, I was able to forget about my problems.
I became consumed by the action and intensity. Everything outside the game did not exist. I was obsessed with the competitiveness and the natural high the game would bring me. It sparked a level of heart and determination that I had never experienced. The only time I had thoughts of the outside world was when I would look into the stands and see both my mother and father. Only at my basketball games could they exist in the same room without wanting to kill each other.
So sports were a beautiful thing for me. They’re a collective effort of people competing as one to achieve success. This forms bonds, a sense of togetherness, and often acts as a source of unity. It sparks ambition, motivation, and pride for many.
And I don’t just see this in my own experiences. I saw a friend of mine from high school, who would have otherwise not have been able to afford college, become the first in his family to attend college because of a sports scholarship. I watched a girl I knew pursue a career in medicine and fitness after managing the football team. I watched hundreds of my peers put aside petty drama and differences to gather in the student section and support my teammates and me during our high school basketball games.
For many people, including me, sports are not “just a game.” Time and time again, they are agents of hope and happiness. I believe in sports.
Essayist Ryan Jacquette is a senior at Penn State University Park majoring in Media Studies.