Sports have always been in my life. I honestly don’t remember a time when there weren’t sports.
I have a baby picture of me wearing a Philadelphia Eagles’ tee shirt. And, another with the whole family wearing their Eagles’ tee-shirts. I was basically born a fan and have been one ever since.
But, it wasn’t just football.
We went to Basketball games when I was younger. I saw the Sixers when Mo Cheeks, Charles Barkley, Moses Malone, and Julius Erving were playing. I continued to visit games on my own, girlfriends and boyfriends as I grew older. I also know my way around a basketball court.
My stepfather’s job had a softball team which he would bring me and my brother to the games. Eventually, when someone missed the game and they were short players, they would allow me and my brother to play. We learned to play all positions.
We also watched boxing matches and it would feel like an event when everyone would get together to see if Tyson was going to knock someone out in minutes.
In middle school, I did gymnastics for several years and in high school, I played volleyball competitively. But, any given day, you could find me dabbling in some sport whether it was running, bike riding, skating, basketball or a myriad of other sports.
While I don’t consider myself a competitive person, I have a winning spirit and I love to watch a team face the physical and mental challenges of a sport. It forces you to push yourself beyond what you even believe yourself to be capable of.
And, the celebration of a win is jubilation that you aren’t allowed in daily life. You can’t exactly spike your stapler and scream at the top of your lungs when you make a good presentation. I mean you could, but people would look at you strangely.
There is also a camaraderie that comes with sharing the love of the same team and there is even playfulness in having a rivalry.
Participating in sports also presents a risk of pursuing it professionally. Very few people are chosen or even develop the stamina and discipline to compete at the professional level. And, a career can be short-lived. You have to be singularly focused, passionate and brave to pursue something with no real guarantees of paying off and to gain glory.
My love of sports in so deep in my blood that I can be found screaming at my television in support of seeing someone push past their limitations. I also envy the focus of an athlete in the zone. I cry with them when they win and I understand their pain when they lose. Giving your all to something and not getting it is devastation most people try to avoid, but these people choose to do it on the world stage and face intense scrutiny.
My team of choice is the Philadelphia Eagles and they usually get criticized for their challenges on the field. But, I have been a loyal fan for years. I stuck by them when they continued to almost win. Almost win in the Playoffs. Almost win the Super Bowl.
Then, they won the Super Bowl against one of our most hated rivals, the New England Patriots in 2018.
It was one of the sweetest moments I have the pleasure to possess in my memory. The city celebrated together and everyone you met was happy to see you. I mean, everybody. It was as if all our hearts opened up at once and released the anxiety of years past and we were all basking in its glow.
It was only made better by the Super Bowl parade. Everyone had a smile on their face. They greeted you like friends. People allowed you to move past them and made space for you at the Parade. I stood with a bunch of people who were looking out for me while I was looking out for them. Philadelphia felt like the City of Brotherly Love as we are named.
The players recognized the fans and the fans celebrated the players for finally getting us the Championship win. It’s a remarkable moment. Our prayers were finally answered after years of striving and being almost good enough. The city finally got our ring.
There are a lot of politics involved with football right now which makes it difficult to know which side to stand on. I have cautiously watched everything play out over the years. I understand both sides which can make some view me as if I don’t care about the issue at hand and I am just choosing to support a sport. And, I have had to make my peace with that and stop justifying my views or my decision to continue to support my team.
At the end of the day, why you love something is deeply personal. And, what you choose to support is your choice.
There is a sport. There is a business. There are the Players. To some, all those things should be viewed as one. To me, I see them as separate entities with their own agendas pulled together as an organization to provide entertainment for others which is very lucrative to the people involved but also the surrounding city.
For me, growing up, sports were where I learned about myself. I learned how to be a part of a team. I learned how to push myself further than I believed I could perform. I learned how to follow rules and be disciplined. I learned how to lose graciously. I learned courage. I learned about support. I learned about goals. I learned how surrender to passion. I learned to love something that I couldn’t control.
And, for all of that, I will be forever grateful.
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