How do you describe something that is a part of you? Something that you love so much, you literally cannot live without it? It becomes difficult to put into words what that thing means to you. For me, that thing is the world of sports.
I can't pinpoint one specific thing that led to this obsession. No one in my family possesses the passion for athletics that I do, so it certainly didn't come from growing up in a sports family. Sure, both my parents and my sisters played sports at some point in their lives, and three of them are still avid runners, but watching a sporting event together or sitting and having a two-hour discussion over Ohio State football is not something that happened often. So where did this addiction come from?
My earliest memories of getting involved in the sporting world were playing tee-ball and soccer. I still remember the name of my first baseball team, the Marlins (after the Florida Marlins, who play in Miami); and my first soccer team which was coached by my own father. At such a young age, (it was the typical age for most kids to try their first sports) I was eager to learn new things, even though none of us had any clue what we were doing. Kids often play as many sports as possible before the age of 10 or so.
Playing in local recreation leagues, I played both soccer and baseball until around the age of 11. It was then that I decided baseball would be my main focus. Despite the fact that I dropped soccer entirely, I continued to try new things in addition to focusing on baseball. I played basketball in a rec league for a few years, ran track in seventh and eighth grade, and ran cross country in eighth grade as well. I decided to stop playing baseball after playing on the freshman team in high school, and ended up switching to just running entirely my junior year.
The fact that I played all of these different sports only further proves my indecisive nature, but I also grew as a person through these experiences. They say that kids who participate in sports often do better in school academically, and I absolutely believe this is true. Sports teach young adults the values of dedication, discipline, teamwork, communication and so many other things. In addition to that, I met some of my best friends during my time on these teams. In senior year, my best friend on the cross country team and I were dubbed "The Super Intergalactic Commander Captains." Tell me that doesn't sound like true friendship.
Sports bring people together for a common cause, whether those people are players or runners or just simply avid fans. Being a fan of a team, like the Buckeyes, honestly makes you a part of a cult, because there's really no better way to describe a crazed fan base. Gathering in one area, Ohio Stadium, on Saturdays and cheering on a group of athletes to score touchdowns and run each other over is really bizarre when you truly think about it, but it's what we crave. The adrenaline rush of hearing the crowd roar and the feeling of being part of something greater than yourself is a feeling unlike any other that I've ever experienced.
Some of the most vivid memories I have are of sporting events: my first Ohio State football game against Illinois in 2005, traveling to East Lansing to watch Ohio State play Michigan State, the Ohio State vs Michigan game in 2014, watching the Buckeyes win the title on national television, etc. The list goes on and on, and people honestly think I'm crazy sometimes for how much time and energy I put into following sports. I've felt some of my biggest emotional swings during sporting events (like the game against Michigan State this past season in football), but I wouldn't have it any other way.
But sometimes, it's not the rush of adrenaline or the group setting I crave. Rather, it's the escape. When life becomes overwhelming on occasion, running has always been there for me even when I feel like I'm alone. The release of emotion on the open trail during a long run or simply going out and trying to go as hard as possible to let off steam is unparalleled. There are times when everyone needs to be alone, and sports have provided me with that safe space to express myself. There has never been a time in my life when a run hasn't solved my feelings of stress and anxiety.
Friends, excitement, adrenaline, escape, feelings of belonging. All of these things describe why I love sports, and those hardly scratch the surface. It took until my sophomore year of college to realize that I was meant to do things related to athletics for the rest of my life. I went from dreading my next criminal justice class to enjoying going to my next sport industry class ready to discuss the latest sports issues and how they can affect the future of my profession.
Some people give me a funny look when I tell them what my major is and ask where I want to go in life, but that doesn't bother me. Sports affect all of our lives in ways that some people don't even realize. They reflect society's greatest issues and triumphs, and that's what makes them such a spectacle. Naysayers may say that the world could live without sports, but I would disagree. I'm in the field where I'm meant to be, and sports will never stop being such an integral part of who I am.