On the importance of sport

By Derek Swartzlander, Staff Writer

The Super Bowl is one of the most important games of the year. 

On an economic level, the Super Bowl puts billions of dollars into the economy. Companies buy commercials, grocery stores sell food and Bengals fans buy Skyline. Millions of people watch the game, bringing in revenue to restaurants and bars across the country. Hotels are packed to the brim.  

It’s true, sports make a lot of money, but that doesn’t say anything about sports besides the fact that millions of people find sports very important. 

There is a much deeper layer to our culture’s fascination with sports. It comes from the human desire to see heroic victory, with the risk of seeing tragic defeat. 

I come from a small town: Bluffton, Ohio, born and raised. I grew up cheering for our football and basketball teams, usually wearing a sousaphone. I had little interest in and even less knowledge of sports. But I always remember how it felt to win. The elation. My heart rising in my chest as adrenaline pumped through my veins. The smiles and cheers shared with my classmates as we knew that good had won the day. All was right in the world. 

Then came the loss, with its bitter heat that inflames the face and clouds the mind. Our hearts sank as we rode home on a silent bus. Our parents would find us cranky, irritable and generally unpleasant to be around (like the average college student). We didn’t feel that our team had failed. We felt that our team had been wronged.  

I had a similar feeling when the Bengals lost on Sunday. I expect that many of you felt the same. This is where the importance of sports comes in. 

Sports have the ability to create extraordinary emotions. Think back to the past few weeks: Cincinnati celebrated the Bengals as its knights in tiger-print armor, who would bring victory against the villainous Rams. 

Everywhere in the city, people were wearing shirts, hats and pants, all marked with that noble crest of the Bengals. Any show of support for the Bengals would be met with adulation. Like children waiting for Santa, we waited for the day of the Super Bowl. We shared smiles, cheers and laughter. For a few glorious weeks, people got along.  

Imagine if this spirit was brought to the rest of life. If every churchgoer prayed with this intensity, Heaven would be overflowing with saints. If every student studied with this intensity, McDonald Library could be read 10 times over. And if every politician legislated with this intensity, Cleneay Avenue would have at least one pothole filled. That would be a beautiful world to live in. 

Sports are also important because there is a noble sort of equality for sports fans. A wealthy fan will not find a team’s victory to be more pleasant than a poor fan would. Likewise, a poor fan will not be particularly hurt by a team’s loss. They are both equal owners of every victory and loss. There is a great beauty in shared victory or defeat because it unifies people. Empathy is shared when everyone knows how everyone else feels.  

Another beautiful thing about sports is loyalty. Sports fans love their teams through every win and loss. Every sports team at Xavier could lose every game they play, and they would still be loved by campus. It is a great joy to stick beside a team to share success and failure. Again, this is a trait that should be emulated outside of sports. 

Great sports also create great heroes. Athletes are obviously not heroes in the same way that doctors and teachers are heroes, but they have a heroism in their great victories and their great skill. 

It is impossible to calculate how many children have become passionate about success after watching great athletes like Muhammed Ali, Wayne Gretsky, Tony Hawk and, of course, Joe Burrow. These athletes have inspired millions of hours of practice and gallons of blood, sweat and tears. Their inspiration has made people better versions of themselves.  

This isn’t to say that sports are the most important thing in life. Sports are trivial. No one will die if a team wins or loses, and no wars will be started on the outcome of the Super Bowl. But the triviality of sports is also why they are so important. They illustrate what people find important. They provide heroes for whom to root and villains at whom to jeer. They reveal one’s character. In other words, sports let us live our lives in a trivial way, but through this, they reveal how we will live our real lives. Sports show how we will treat each other, how hard we will work and how honest we are. What do sports say about you?