Passion for sports lives on

Nathan Stacken

Nathan Stacken

Phil Mickelson won his third Green Jacket at the Masters, and his wife Amy was there for the final round. This was the first time she had been to a tournament since she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. It was very emotional when the two embraced after the round, and how could you not be happy for the Mickelsons after all they have been through?

There’s also Tiger Woods making his first appearance of the year at the Masters, coming back from a five-month hiatus while he dealt with personal issues and attended sex therapy. Woods finished at ten under, tying him for fourth. He wasn’t happy about the finish, because he said he came into the tournament expecting to win.

Yet, anybody who watched some of the shots he made marveled at just what an extraordinary athlete he is. Only Woods could come back after five months of non-competitive golf and be in contention on the final day for a major championship.

Then you have the Butler Bulldogs on April 12, losing in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament to the Duke Blue Devils by two points!

Butler, the hometown heroes, the Cinderella team that many people considered to be better than your normal Cinderella, the No. 5 seed in the tournament, played well, but could not quite win. They did gain so much admiration and respect from college basketball fans and the college basketball world. So many people watched them and were cheering for them, something that Butler had never experienced before.

Finally, you have the start of the baseball season and for Twins fans, Monday was the start of a new chapter for the franchise as Target Field opened. What a site this stadium is! It already has brought so much excitement to the state and to the team and fans (including myself) can’t wait to get a chance to go up there and see a game.

The best part is the Twins won the first ever regular season game Monday against the Boston Red Sox 5-2.

That brings me to my main point. How can you not love sports? I know there are some people who aren’t that competitive and like the arts and science and all of that other stuff. Yeah, yeah, I get that. There is always a story in sports. There is always something big going on, and there is always a player, a team, or an event to rally behind.

Think in the last week of all that has happened: men’s and women’s national championship games, baseball opening day, the Masters, the opening of Target Field. Later in the week for sports geeks like me, the NFL schedule comes out with full dates and times of when your favorite team plays. It is a great time to be a sports fan.

What’s wrong with sports? How can anyone hate every single sport? You can’t. There are so many stories, so many good guys to cheer for, so many teams to cheer and hate, so many rivalries. Are there some negative headlines in sports? Sure. Ben Roethlisberger’s sexual assault cases come to mind, though he won’t be criminally charged as we learned Monday. Tiger Woods’ sex rampage definitely was a black eye to his reputation, but also to golf which saw terrible ratings for its tournaments early on. Steroids are always a problem in sports.

However, don’t most aspects of life have both their negative and positive stories? Yes! Sports just bring a certain joy to most people that you wouldn’t get from a play, opera, or even a concert.

When the city of New Orleans was cleaning up after getting destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Saints became a source of pride and an escape for people for three hours every Sunday so that they could forget their troubles, at least for a little while. Then when the Superdome reopened and the Saints played their first game since Katrina on September 25, 2006, the people of New Orleans made it a symbol of how much New Orleans had recovered since the storm more than a year before.

When the Saints won the Super Bowl this year, Bourbon Street was instantly packed with thousands of Saints fans, ecstatic that their team had finally won a Super Bowl for the first time in its 43-year history. The Saints are a source of community pride that cannot be found anywhere else in the country.

In the coming days and months, the playoffs will start for both the NHL and NBA and many people will watch, wanting to see the best players and teams perform at their best.

For a month, in June and July, the world will descend upon South Africa for soccer’s World Cup. There, countries will unite and form bonds with one another watching the best soccer players and teams in the world try to win for their country.

The fans and countries live and die with their soccer clubs in most of the world. You will see the passion from the players and the fans. You will see just how much people love soccer (football to the rest of the world) and how much sports is a part of their lives.

I’m not saying sports is the only thing to love (far from it) or that anyone who doesn’t like sports doesn’t have a soul. But I find it very difficult to understand how anyone can not find at least one thing to like about sports.

There is just a passion and something about sports that draws people to them. Whether it is a feel-good story like Mickelson’s triumph, or something that is intriguing like Tiger Woods’ return to golf, sports has something for everyone. ESPN’s baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian has a book called Is This a Great Game or What? that talks about the great sport of baseball.

While I don’t have a book coming out, I’m going to go along those same lines and say, “Are sports great or what?” I think the majority would resoundingly say yes.