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Sports means a lot to fans

The first time I saw full-out, unbridled passion for a sporting event came from an unlikely source.

It was my mom.

My mom doesn’t mind sports. To my knowledge, she was never an athlete, but she didn’t have much of a choice but to learn to like them when she married my father (and then had three boys). Still, she isn’t one to sit on the edge of her seat and throw things at the TV when a game is on, but this day was different.

We were at a Liberty High School boys basketball game, circa 1990, and I was probably 7 or 8. My mom was holding my hand, and the entire place was standing. The Leopards, who eventually reached the state championship game, trailed by 1 or 2 with a few seconds left, and Liberty’s Mark Majick hit a half-court buzzer-beater to cap a wild comeback.

Never in my life had I seen my mom go “berserk,” but she did at that game. She was screaming at the top of her lungs and squeezing my hand tighter than she ever had. That’s when I first started to love sports. If a mere game could create a positive feeling like that for someone, I wanted to be a part of it.

Now that sports are gone temporarily, I’m realizing the impact it continues to have on my life 30 years later.

Sports play a huge role in a lot of our lives. They relieve stress and bring excitement and suspense to what would often just be a boring day. They provide lifelong lessons and help us realize what it’s like to work for and achieve a goal.

They also can help us deal with defeat and failure, and they often put life in perspective. My father was the one who taught me that. I remember never understanding why he didn’t flip out when he was watching the Cleveland Browns in the late 1980s.

They lost in the AFC Championship game — twice — in the worst possible way (The Drive and The Fumble), and while my dad was disappointed, he quickly moved on like nothing really happened.

It took me a while, but I eventually grasped that a sporting event shouldn’t ruin your day or week. There are much more important matters in life, even though that is sometimes hard to believe. Years of hard work can be dashed for an athlete with an awkward fall or bad bounce. A million things can happen to end a game or a career, and sometimes the outcome is unfair or infuriating.

At some point, you realize the outcome isn’t what matters the most. The journey is so much more interesting and important. When you watch sports highlights or a documentary about a team or a player, do they just show the score and then it’s over? No. That’s boring. How they got there, what they overcame, the work they put in and the sacrifices they made are what make the stories great.

For me, it’s the mental break from reality that I appreciate about sports. When you’re involved in a sport, whether it’s coaching or playing (maybe even as a reporter), there isn’t time to waste thinking about all the other things in life. You can’t worry yourself with any of life’s stressors when you’re fully focused on a game, and that can be just the escape you need during a tough day.

I’m sure during these eerie times a lot of us sports fanatics find ourselves pondering matters we would normally not. It can be difficult not to have the relief of sports to distract our minds from some of the problems we encounter. We rely on that brief reprieve from life on a regular basis, and without it, the constant tension can be a bit overwhelming.

Maybe this is another moment where we can learn from sports. One term I hear more than most from coaches and players is mental toughness, which generally refers to pushing through when times are tough. Well, times are tough, and while sports may not be here to help you through it, they were there all those previous times.

Sports got us this far; now we need to appreciate them and heed the lessons they taught us until they return again.

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