Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sport imitates life

Why do sports matter?

For starters, sports mirrors life in so many ways. You get the minor ups and downs, the kinds of things that make you happy one day, sad the next. You get the tremendous joys with winning the biggest of the bigs, and the sorrow that comes from those last-minute, heart-breaking losses.

What makes sports so great is that every so often we fans are treated to an event that surpasses nearly everything else. A few short hours that make us forget about office productivity, the bills that need to be paid, the kids’ bad grades in his math class. We sit, entranced, watching stellar athletes compete at the highest levels, under the most pressure their sport can bring to bear.

We, as fans, also love stories. We more than love them, actually, we have a natural need to hear them and to tell them. Stories are driven by conflict, and sports, which is built on conflict in the abstract is a ready-made maker of stories.

Every game is a drama, and so is every season, every era, every career. Follow a sport for any length of time and a narrative begins to emerge. You begin to find heroes, villains, tragedies and happy endings, and you want to keep watching to see what happens next.

Sports also lets us simulate the experience of conflict — the anger, the triumph, the panic, the despair — while protecting us from consequences in real life.

That's why we love sports.