Each time I visit my sister and her family, my seven-year-old nephew, and fellow sports enthusiast, wants to play sports – whether it be basketball in the driveway, football in the backyard, or quasi-track & field in the living room – or talk about them, including the NBA Playoffs, the NHL Playoffs, the French Open, the upcoming college football season, or, most recently, the Women's World Cup.
Peter's sports fanaticism makes me reminisce of my own childhood in Michigan - devouring sports cards, going to games at Spartan Stadium, and playing on teams both real and imaginary. It reminds me why, as a daily newspaper reader, I pull out the sports section first.
Following sports can act as a great balancer of life and keep our emotions in check. When you are disappointed or clinically depressed, an opposing punter will drop a snap allowing your team to score a winning touchdown as time expires, and you will be rejuvenated with happiness.
When you are unreasonably happy, a #15 seed will make an obscene number of three pointers and upset your team prompting a sense of devastation that brings you back to reality. Don’t fret too much, young sports fans, when your team gets shellacked - it builds character.
When life is going too smoothly or you are overly optimistic, your team’s top recruit will de-commit and choose a conference foe, making sure you'll get to see him trash your team for years providing a trial you can grow from.
And when your future seems discouraging or your outlook is bleak, you can regain hope by analyzing your team's scholarship situation and brainstorming prospective starting lineups for the 2021-22 season.
Following sports helps us recognize who our true friends are. After a heart-crushing defeat, you'll get a few half-hearted texts from casual friends. But a genuine, lifelong friend will message, “I know that was a tough game. I'm here if you need someone to talk to.”
Sports can uncover the altruistic traits in someone. At the grocery store, I recently witnessed a North Carolina fan open the door for an elderly woman wearing a Duke shirt. That may not have happened during basketball season, but in that moment it still almost made me cry.
When I’m told the clichéd joke about the husband who struggles to be pulled from watching a game as his wife goes into labor, I don’t return the cheerful humor. Because when my daughter was born on New Years’ Eve 2015, her entry into the world conflicted with Michigan State’s first trip to the College Football Playoff - no laughing matter. Ironically, it makes me forever indebted to that well-timed girl for forcing me to miss the team’s blowout loss.
A more verifiable gauge of one's fanhood might be drawn from comparing their heart rate during the birth of their child to what it is during their team's overtime games.
You know you’re a sports fan if your favorite time of year corresponds with the start of your favorite sports season (the changing colors can be nice too), or if your least favorite time corresponds with the months-long lull in between (blame it on the humidity).
My wife was reluctant to believe me when I told her a former NBA player stood just five-foot-three -- even after I recited to her that Muggsy Bogues played for the Charlotte Hornets, wore jersey No. 1, weighed 135 pounds, and averaged 11 points and 10 assists during the 1993-94 season. At Peter's age, with a head full of statistics before learning arithmetic, I would show my mom a Bogues basketball card to point out that they were the same height and remind her that she still had a shot.
While I reported on high school basketball games for a Utah newspaper, people would ask me which player I was recruiting. None of the kids had been looked at by any local Division I, II, or III schools, but surely a guy wearing media credentials and a Michigan State hat had to be a scout from a program with eight Final Fours in 20 years 3,000 miles away. I don’t blame them - at 30 years old, I’m 13 years removed from high school and only last year gave up hope that there was a scout out there waiting to discover me.
When my boss tells me more newspapers have arrived to monitor the organization's media coverage, her words carry some power. Because though city council updates and budget approvals are important, the sports page is where the magic is.
Ian Olsen is a freelance sports writer.