We Need Sports
An average of 16.5 million people tuned in to watch NFL games during the 2019 regular season. 15.14 million viewers tuned in to the 2019 NBA finals, and in 2019, the MLB saw its highest viewing average in 7 years. It is no secret that sports are a major player in the American culture and economy, but the reason for their draw may be more important than you think. Sports offer a rare and unique ability to unite people.
One of my favorite childhood memories is of me sitting next to my dad in the Alamodome, cheering on our San Antonio Spurs. The packed stands painted with fans in matching Spurs gear, the roar of the crowd when Sean Elliot got a dunk, and dancing to the standard basketball arena music created an electric atmosphere that I was drawn to as a child. What I felt was unity – a unity so strong that even as a young, unathletic child, I was invited to be a part of it. It united me to with dad, and it united me with my city. A city with a very diverse population of well over a million people has one major thing in common – we love our San Antonio Spurs. All over the city, from neighborhoods to skyscrapers, “Go Spurs Go” flags can be seen proudly waving.
And it doesn’t start or stop with the pros. As a freshman at Texas A&M University, game day at Kyle Field was an indescribable experience. The unity among Aggie fans is gripping. The traditions and the yells for a football team are able to unite a school of over 60,000 diverse students. For a few hours on a Saturday, we are all together, donned in maroon, cheering for our team, “Gig ’Em Aggies!” Today, years later, when I see someone in an Aggie t-shirt, there is an immediate bond – a brief moment of connection in our shared love of a team.
We even felt the unity in adolescence. At my high school, home of the “Fighting Eagles,” whether it was on the baseball diamond, the soccer field, the volleyball court, or the basketball gym, on game day, we set aside differences, groups, cliques. We were united as a student body, cheering our Eagles on to victory. Students of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities chanting together, “Eagles, Eagles!”
This phenomenon can be applied to nearly any city or state that has a professional sports team whether hockey, football, baseball, basketball, soccer. It can be applied to any university and any high school. Nearly all of us have experienced, first hand, the unifying force of sports, and it is what keeps us coming back. It is what makes us fiercely loyal to our teams, and it is what gives us something to share in our diversity. While it won’t solve all of our problems, the return of sports will be a return to unity. America needs sports.
Jill Schenk is a coaches wife of nearly 18 years, a teacher, a coach, and mom of four. She values the intrinsic qualities sports develops in athletes of all ages and levels and has a passion for communicating these values and their life-long benefits.