Every four years, my patriotism for America reaches its peak while watching the summer Olympics. I’ve always had immense respect for the athletes who work so hard to win a medal for their countries. As a little girl, I greatly admired gymnasts for their power and grace, just like most little girls. As I grew up, I began to realize how wonderful the Olympics can be for inspiring patriotism in people as they cheer for their nation’s finest athletes. Especially during a year of so much hardship, the Olympics often bring joy and comradery to a world that is usually quite divided.
This year, watching the Olympics has made me think about the value of sports as a whole. In my hearty 18f years of existence, I’ve come across several different cultures and their responses to sports. Recently, I’ve met more and more people who think that sports are a complete waste of time. This hatred for sports is something I feel convicted to share my opinion on, as someone who loves both the arts and athletics. So, as someone who is a fan of both sides of what is usually a very polarizing topic, here is what I have to say about sports.
Sports are so much more important than we often give them credit for. Typically, people who dislike sports point to the sports culture and regard it as a gross or unclassy way of life. While I will agree that there is a culture surrounding sports that is ugly and mildly obsessive, the same thing could be said for anything if it’s worshipped in the wrong way like sports sometimes are. Just like nobody should ignore all art and say that they’re more of a sports person, so should you never ignore the entire field of sports. You don’t have to be a Laker’s fan to appreciate basketball. You don’t even have to absolutely love sports. You just have to recognize that sports are a valid activity, just like art is.
However, I also think everyone should at least try sports once because of all the valuable things sports teach. Again, I don’t mean to say that you have to invest yourself thoroughly in sports trivia or force yourself to become the best athlete at every sport. Some people aren't meant to be athletes, and that’s OK. Even if you don’t necessarily love playing sports, you should be able to recognize that sports are good in of themselves.
But why? Why are sports so inherently good?
For so many reasons.
First, there is a certain type of excellence in being able to move one’s body in both beautiful and skillful ways. Sports are hard work. Often times, the physical aspect of sports is what’s worshipped by ‘jocks’ who only care about slamming bodies against one another, and that’s a tragedy. Bodies are wonderful and are given to us so that we might use them in excellent ways. They can do really incredible things with the right amount of training and determination, and we should recognize how cool that is. Again, not everyone is given the gift of athleticism, so it’s not as though everyone needs to become a world class gymnast. But that’s what makes the physical aspect of sports so cool. Not everyone can do them, and that only makes them more amazing. If everyone could swim the way Michael Phelps does, his swimming wouldn’t be nearly as exquisite as it is.
Sports also create community. Some of the best community I have ever known has come from being on a team of individuals and figuring out a way to work together to achieve something we all wanted. Being on a team of people who have a common goal of victory and success provides a special environment filled with ambition and perseverance. I often long for the days of high school volleyball when I got the chance to work diligently at bettering a skill everyday alongside other people who were doing the same thing. I miss cheering them on when they did something great. I miss laughing with them when we all horribly messed up. And I miss the joy I felt when we finally achieved working in perfect synchronization. There is such a strong bond that comes with working alongside other people who are also trying to push their bodies to do incredible things. There are other ways of finding community, obviously, and they each provide their own unique sense of teamwork. All I’m saying is that being on a sports team is one of several unique ways to work with other humans.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, sports bring together participants and fans to enjoy something excellent. Like I said earlier, my patriotism for America reaches its fullest peak when I watch the summer Olympics. When I see my country being represented by incredible athletes who have worked for several years to be able to do the things they can, I’m immediately reminded of how good people really can be.
A few nights ago, the whole world watched two American female gymnasts, Aly Raisman and Simone Biles, compete in the individual all-around finals. The entire event was suspenseful as everyone waited to see whether it would be Russia or America that took the gold. Then, after Russia had received a relatively low score for their floor routines, Aly Raisman performed quite possibly the best routine of her life. It was nearly flawless. When she finished, Aly Raisman immediately welled up with tears, her smile beaming throughout the stadium. Just minutes later, Simone Biles performed an even better floor routine, meaning that America was going to take both gold and silver. In that moment, despite all the bad things that have happened this year in America, I immediately felt proud of my country and its inhabitants.
Sports are so good. I’m thankful for being raised to love playing sports and for my parents encouraging me to persevere in working at a sport. Being an athlete taught me so many valuable lessons throughout my childhood, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. If you’re going to love art, love art because it’s beautiful — not because it’s not a sport. Loving the arts and loving athletics are not mutually exclusive. Seek to appreciate them both.