What Sports Taught Me

What Sports Taught Me

Taylor
Taylor
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I very clearly remember the night of January 24, 2010. Ok, yeah I had to look up the actual date, but that's besides the point. I was laying in bed, listening to my mom sobbing upstairs, repeating "this was supposed to be our year." The New Orleans Saints had just defeated the Minnesota Vikings in overtime and where on their way to Super Bowl 44. To this day my mom is convinced there's some conspiracy that the Saints only won because of Katrina. I digress. At the time, I remember being sad that my mom was crying, but I just didn't understand how she could be so upset over a game played by people she didn't know.

Flash forward a couple years. I get it now.

This weekend will be the first Vikings playoff game of the season, and hopefully not their last. The next few weekends are guaranteed to end in tears, happy and sad, regardless of how far the Vikings make it.

To clarify, I'm not overly emotional in my day to day life. To make my point, five words I wouldn't use to describe me are: positive, emotional, enthusiastic, passionate and compassionate. My boyfriend calls me an ice queen, my mom has likened me to Meredith Grey and her dark and twisty ways. Unless I'm watching sports.

The first game I cried over was last years playoffs, when the Packers eliminated the Cowboys from the playoffs in spectacular fashion. Granted I hate both teams, but I can't stand Cowboys fans and how cocky they get and desperate they are to revive their past. They really thought their two fancy rookies were taking them to the Super Bowl that year, which made me nauseous to think about. After Mason Crosby's game winning kick, the camera panned to Ezekiel Elliott in disbelief, and I was so overcome with joy that I started to cry. Thankfully the Packers ended up losing in the next round, because while I was happy they defeated the Cowboys, that's as far as the Vikings arch enemy is allowed to progress.

A few weeks later, I found myself crying because of sadness caused by a football game for the first time. Like most people outside of the New England area, I didn't want to see Brady win yet another Super Bowl. Naturally, when the Falcons blew their huge lead and lost in overtime, there were some tears. There were also happy tears when the Nashville Predators advanced to their first Stanley Cup Finals in franchise history. And a few days later, many, many tears of sadness when they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

What this has taught me is that when I care and am passionate about something, it's 120%. My boyfriend doesn't get it, much like how I didn't get how upset my mom used to get. I tried to describe it to him is that because I love football and hockey, mainly the Vikings and Wild, I give it everything. Sometimes I feel like I'm part of the team. I celebrate their wins, mourn the tough losses. I follow them on social media and watch hours of videos on YouTube, I start to feel like I know the players. I put myself in their place when they're playing, imagining how great that win must feel and replaying the loss to try and find somewhere things could've gone differently. When I'm watching a game, I feel like I'm watching my friends, and who wants to see their friends upset? And who doesn't want to share in their friends happiness?

Maybe it doesn't all make sense. Maybe I'm a little crazy, caring about a game and teams of players I've never met. What crying over sports has taught me is that when I care about something or someone, I'm loyal til the end and will give everything and more to it. It was something I didn't know about myself until I started watching sports, and something I didn't expect with my personality. So thank you football and hockey, for teaching me that I'm more than just a hopeful, delusional Minnesota sports fan.

Cover Image Credit: https://www.google.com/search?q=minnesota+vikings+and+wild&rlz=1C1AVNA_enUS598US598&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjmuurKgtPYAhVH7oMKHaWBC6QQ_AUICygC&biw=1366&bih=637#imgrc=WUiUKDc7K9PQiM:

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We used to call it "flipping the switch." You would go through eight hours of school (somehow) and then your mentality would automatically change. The worries and stress from the school day would dwindle as you put on your cleats and begin to warm up. Anything that was going on in your life didn't matter when you hit the dirt. You create lifelong friendships with the girls you spent every day with for months at a time. Teammates who see you susceptible after a bad game and on cloud nine after one of your bests.

You develop a routine and superstitions. Hitting your bat on the inside of your cleat before you hit, chewing a certain type of gum on the volleyball court, how many times you spin the ball before you shoot a free throw, whatever your quirk was, you 100% believed it would make you play better. You practice in your free time with your dad, devote three to five months of your school year to a team, and play all summer long with your travel team as you live off hotel breakfast. Then one day, it's all over.

It is a feeling that nobody can prepare you for. They say enjoy it while it lasts but you never really understand what you'll be walking away from when you play your last game and hang it up for good. You lose a part of yourself when you're no longer an athlete. I forgot what it feels like to be competitive and be a part of something that is bigger than myself. It has been two years since I've played my last softball game and not a day goes by when I don't miss it. I didn't play because I wanted to go pro or even to the collegiate level, but I played because it was an escape and helped me become who I am.

You begin to forget what it felt like to hit the sweet spot on a bat, what it sounded like to have an audience cheer for you as you stand alone on second base and see your family in the stands, to hear the metal spikes of your cleats on concrete when walking in the dugout. It's simple things about the game you love that brought you pure joy and an escape from the world and the thoughts in your head. Batting practice was always mine. Focusing on nothing but the next pitch and how hard I could hit it.

When you have to watch the game from the other side of the fence, you realize how much pressure you put on yourself when you played. It's just a game. Make as many memories as you can and enjoy every inning because when you leave sports behind you have to find your inner athlete in other things. Create a workout routine, joining a club sport or intramurals, or even becoming a coach. As much as I miss the sport, I am thankful for everything it brought me. It taught me how to be a good friend, respect others around me, and to push myself to discover what I was capable of.

So, enjoy it while it lasts.

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