Playing and watching sports helps in numerous ways—rallying behind a common goal, teamwork, friendship and fair play.
I love sports.
As a kid, I lived for sports. From the moment I could stand and from the moment I could walk, life revolved around a ball—throwing, catching, hitting—a ball. Putting a ball through a hoop. Running with a football. Kicking a football. I even had the NFL uniform complete with jersey, helmet and shoulder pads when I was all of six years old.
I was lucky enough to have a sister a couple of years older than me who was also into sports which gave me someone to play with when I was very young before I ventured off into neighborhood games. Later in life, my sister went on to star for Texas A&M University and won a national softball championship.
I grew up with a dad who supported me in sports and served as my coach in Little League and other baseball leagues between the ages of 8 and 15. I was a decent athlete, earning a varsity letter in football and baseball and a sophomore letter in basketball.
I don’t know what my life would be like without sports. I don’t know if I would be the same person or enjoy life in the same way I do now. Sports shows you how to overcome adversity, it builds confidence and teaches you to work with others to achieve a goal.
It’s fun to compete and test yourself and get better, no matter your talent level. It’s about playing with your friends and teammates and sharing those moments together. We not only played and competed with each other— baseball, football and basketball were the preferred sports in my Chicago neighborhood—but we watched sports together as well.
We attended state football and basketball championships in Illinois. We watched our favorite teams on television—the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks and Notre Dame football.
Growing up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, watching sports was an event. The entire family would come together when our teams played in a big game, especially on Monday Night Football. Friends from the neighborhood would be there as well to capture the moment.
Sports have a way of bringing people together, whether it’s a family or a community. You see it when the high school team does well, the regional college team or the professional team in the area where you live. Look at how many homes on Thanksgiving Day have people sit around and watch the game after dinner and talk.
The last memories I have of my dad were spent going to Cowboy Stadium and watching my beloved Bears play in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day 1981. He died a few weeks later.
Even if people don’t always get along, they could while watching the big game. And for teenagers like myself, watching sports with your buddies was a great alternative to going out and potentially getting in trouble.
I know there are a lot of people who just don’t get or like sports, and I understand that. I had one brother who was like that and never played sports or even watched. I could never get him to understand what it was like for my sister and me and why we loved sports so much. He finally got it after the September 11 terrorist attacks. He saw how sports helped New York City come together and heal and gave our country’s greatest city a chance to honor those who died and to celebrate life. He watched the New York Yankees make their run through the playoffs and come within a game of winning the World Series and all the drama and emotion that came with it.
My late brother Craig was a Hollywood agent and I got him to look at sports like he does the movie industry and Broadway. Sports are an unscripted movie that has all the drama you see on the big screen. It’s like Broadway in that it’s measured by the performances of the athletes just as you do the actors in a play or musical. He’s the one brother I spent the least time with of any of all siblings, and I’m glad I got to share some moments with him watching sports before he died.
Sports are part of the thread of our lives. They’re the background music in a movie of life. It’s part of our family.
I know for me, it’s a chance to meet up with buddies on either Saturday or Sunday during the fall to watch football. The NCAA Tournament in March means friends from across the country getting together for the past 20-plus years in Las Vegas to enjoy each other’s company and reflect on the year we haven’t seen each other.
By that measure, my life just wouldn’t be the same without sports. Not even a little.