KALIS: All for the love of sports

Sports are funny, aren’t they? I mean, if you step back and really think about it, it’s almost kind of silly the way we carry on about them.
Feb 19, 2013

Can you imagine if aliens invaded during, say, the Super Bowl? They’d see people in matching outfits running around with a ball. Then spot the crazy fans who’ve traded in their clothes for body paint, and are wearing giant colored afros and foam fingers on their hands. They’d hear the cheering and chanting and screaming — and then, I think, the aliens would say, “Gooba snitchen taz noid!” (Translation: “Let’s get the heck out of here!”)

Come to think of it, that would be a great defense against a war of the worlds. Or maybe just a great plot for a bad B movie. 

But the fact is, and as crazy as it sometimes seems, sports are incredibly important to our society.

I’m not just talking professional sports either. Heck, when our high school girls were making their run for the state championship, the town practically closed down. Kids were allowed to skip school to attend. And the kids that did go to school spent the day watching the game on TV! 

That’s because, in many cases, it’s much more than just a game. Think of how the country came together when the USA hockey team beat the Russians, or how an entire city was uplifted by the Saints winning the Super Bowl after the hurricane. 

Of course, with the thrill of victory comes the agony of defeat. For every team or person who wins, there is one that loses. 

I’ve always hated when the camera zooms in on the defeated. I’d much rather see the celebration. Maybe that's because I know how both sides feel.

I remember quite clearly standing on the podium at the high school state cross-country meet. But I remember just as clearly falling a mere 0.06 second short of being a college All-American — not that it still bothers me or anything.

Let’s just face it: It’s no fun to lose.

In the days of non-stop discussion leading up to this year’s Super Bowl, I heard one of the Harbaugh brothers say that they knew very well going in that one of them would have to win and the other lose. Both teams had worked hard to get there — but for only one the hard work would pay off; the other would fall short. One would celebrate an exhilarating victory, the other wallow in what could’ve been.

Still, we love our sports. It’s crazy, isn’t it? Our willingness to endure the possibility of pain all for the love of the game and, of course, for the chance to experience the joy that winning brings.

A couple of weeks ago, my son’s hockey team beat their arch rivals — a team that they just couldn’t seem to get past. It was a battle until the end, just as always with them, but this time it was our team that came out on top. We cheered and hugged and whistled as they tossed their gloves in the air and tackled their goalie in celebration.

It wasn’t just a game. The winner moved on to district semifinals; the loser went home.

The next morning, we arrived at the rink, still happily riding the excitement from the night before. Then someone asked me if I had seen the other team’s goalie afterward. He had been sitting alone, head in hands and unable to hold back his emotions. I realized in all the excitement, I hadn’t noticed. 

I thought about the 12-year-old boy, what an incredible goalie he is, how much pressure he must have felt and how sad he must have been. My heart went out to him. 

One and a half hours later, my heart ached even more deeply as I consoled my own son, whose team’s chance at the district championship had slipped through their fingers. 

Losing hurts. And it lingers. Like a dark cloud that takes days to clear. But it does eventually clear, and that is why our love doesn’t fade. Because of hope. We hope to win. And if we don’t, eventually the hurt will be replaced by hope once again — hope that maybe, just maybe, we can get ‘em next time. 

“Shawshank Redemption” is one of my all-time favorite movies. A big reason for that is the power of the last two spoken words: “I hope.”

I hope that the Red Wings can persevere without Lindstrom. I hope the girls’ basketball team can repeat as state champs. I hope my son’s hockey team will win districts. 

And if aliens arrive, and for some odd reason decide to stay, I hope that they enjoy sports as much as we do! I hope.

— By Kelly Kalis, Tribune community columnist

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