by Larry Ham
Do you love sports? I do. A lot of people do. Yet, I know many people who couldn’t care less about sports, so I got to thinking about why we sports fans love sports so much.
This isn’t the first time I’ve considered this question. When Lorie and I were engaged to be married back in 1989, she asked me one day why I was such a sports fanatic. She came from a family with absolutely no interest in sports whatsoever, so I was really the first fan she’d ever met. When she asked me, I was piqued for a moment. Why indeed? That was 21 years ago, and I can’t remember what I eventually said so now I sit here in front of my Mac trying to figure out what it is about the world of sports and athletic competition that drives people to become so wrapped up in it.
I guess what excites me about a sporting event is the uniqueness of it. Every game is a brand new drama with an uncertain outcome. It’s not unlike going to see a movie you’ve never seen or reading a book you’ve never read. There may well be an outcome you assume will happen, but things seldom turn out as anticipated. That’s why, when you go to a Las Vegas casino and walk into the sports betting room, the accoutrements are lavish and the TV screens are huge. You may think you know what’s gonna happen, and you might be willing to put money on it, but it doesn’t always work out in your favor. The New York Mets winning the World Series in 1969 was just as big a surprise as Luke Skywalker making his “desperation shot” and destroying the Death Star!
Another aspect of sports that attracts me and many others is the opportunity to watch supremely gifted people performing at a high level. I saw Wayne Gretzky play hockey in person several times. I saw Mike Piazza launch a home run completely out of Dodger Stadium, and I saw Curtis O’Neill kick three field goals of more than fifty yards in the span of two games to send the Reedley College football team to an unlikely berth in the Northern California JC Football championship game in 2009. There’s nothing quite like rooting for a team and seeing them exceed expectations. I always hearken back to 2002, when an untested and very young Reedley College football team rode the magic of Quarterback Robert Johnson all the way to a state and national championship.
And that brings me to the final and perhaps best reason to be a sports fan — the people you meet. I have been blessed to be involved in the local sports scene here in the Reedley area for 24 years. In that time, I have met some of the finest people I have ever known. And they all have a love for athletic competition in common. I look forward to introducing you to some of them in future columns. People like Will Goldbeck, my radio partner for many years. Paul Mitchell, the Hall of Fame P.A. announcer for Reedley College Football. Michael White, the former Head Coach of the Reedley College football team, who now works in Administration at the college.
So then, why do I love sports so much? For the reasons above and many more. I guess it was best expressed by Jim Bouton, the author of one of the greatest sports books of all time, Ball Four. He was asked why he still enjoyed playing baseball even after his best days were behind him: “Well, you spend your whole life gripping a baseball, and it turns out it was the other way around all along.”
To get your local sports fix, come out and watch Reedley Men’s Softball this summer:
Their season runs through August.