“It’s only a game,” my wife said, walking away from me during one of my diatribes on the irritation of rival fans. The morning after a huge victory for one of my beloved teams, a victory over 20 years in the making, my feathers were a bit ruffled by some of the nonsense I read online. I really should know better, fans are called fans for a reason; they are die-hard enthusiasts of a partisan nature.
In reality, my wife is right. It is only a game. A sporting game is just a game of rules, strategy, athletes and fans. It’s almost always not life and death, and though sides and colors are drawn, at the end of the day we all go home to our families and our lives…and life goes on. It’s only a game.
That is the reality. But the reality sometimes forgets about the magic. The reality sometimes forgets about the mojo and the excitement. And in reality, life is really all about the magic.
Yes, sports have elements of hard work, dedication, and sportsmanship; all positive qualities applicable to good life lessons. But for me, and as I suspect for many others, sports are a marker in time. I have a collection of magical moments that link me to people and places in time. Yes, the memory involves a big win or a heart breaking loss. But with all of those memories, I remember who I was with, and how people were feeling; makers in time.
As my Michigan Wolverines sit one game away from a shocking National Championship, it reminds me of a key marker in my life; the last time Michigan won the basketball title in 1989. My step-dad and I watched the double overtime victory against Seton Hall, cheering Rumeal Robinson as he sank two free throws to seal the championship. I remember the game, both like it was yesterday and a lifetime ago. At the moment Michigan won, I leaped from the corner of the arm of the couch, meeting my step-dad on the floor of our living room. We rolled around in amazed excitement. It was and remains a highlight of my life. Yes, because my team won. But more than anything, because of celebrating it with someone I love.
Marker in time.
The 2006 Detroit Tigers pennant win in Comerica Park is much the same a marker in time. It was the first time my wife attended a Detroit Tigers baseball game; not a bad first experience. Sam and I were in the upper deck along the first base side. My step-dad and uncle were in the upper deck just behind home plate. And my brother-in-law sat with a friend in right field. I remember the moment Magglio Ordonez blasted his 3-run homer in the bottom of the 9th like it was yesterday. Within an instance I leaped to the back of my seat and along with 45,000 of my favorite Detroit friends, celebrated in the unbelievable excitement. I remember games in relation to the timing of that game. I remember moments in my life, in relation to that 2006 magical moment.
Marker in time.
So, as real as it may be that it’s “only a game,” the reality doesn’t quite equate to the divinity of time and the magic of people. In an age of ever expanding cruelty in rivalries, I hope as we all cheer for our own teams and tease rivals about their teams, we do so in a way that honors the magic. After all, life is meant to be enjoyed not endured.