It Must Be Love: Why Do We Need Sports to Breathe?

Musings/Rants

It’s that time of the year again: the start of the U.S Open and my favorite two weeks of the summer. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a huge tennis junkie. I probably spend more time watching tennis matches than I do studying and binge-watching Netflix combined. I kid you not. Anyway, I had to go out earlier today but as soon as I got home in the afternoon I just flopped on the couch, turned on the TV to the Tennis Channel and didn’t move for about three and a half hours. Well, I got up to grab some food but whatever. Two and a half years ago I was up from midnight to 6a.m. watching the Australian Open final between Djokovic and Nadal, which was honestly the greatest six hours of my life even though I shat my pants (metaphorically of course) about twenty times and wandered around like a vampire for the next three days. Would I do it all again? Abso-fucking-lutely.

I think any sports fanatic around the world can relate to my experiences. We breathe sports. A win or a loss can either tear our hearts to shreds or give us the most exquisite orgasms of our lives. And I still can’t quite figure out why, even after almost nine years as an obsessive follower of tennis. Only a few of the most devoted sports fans actually play their respective sports exceptionally well. Most of us are amateurs. I haven’t picked up a tennis racket in almost four years, and I’m pretty sure I can speak Russian better than I can hit a ball. But none of that matters. No matter where we’re from or what we do for a living, we all go insane when the season starts and when our favorite players or teams show up on TV. Dozens of heart surgeries fail everyday and no one really bats an eye, but when Germany thrashed Brazil 7-1 a whole nation crumples. If you think about it, playing football is every bit a job as performing heart surgeries, yet millions of people would pay a ton of money to watch the former while no one would pay a cent to watch the latter (not that it’s allowed, but whatever). Except sportspeople, we wouldn’t spend hours a day watching anyone else doing his or her job.

So what is it about sportspeople that’s so damn compelling? I’ve always thought it’s because they go through so much pain. It seems like the more painful or risky the sport is, the more fans it attracts. Like, boxing/American football/soccer are substantially more popular than archery/table tennis/shooting.Watching sports is not that different to watching reality TV shows. We’re basically just reacting to real people doing what they’ve been doing their whole lives. It has no impact whatsoever on our own lives, but we still care about it anyway. We love seeing people push their bodies to places we are too scared to even imagine. We live vicariously through our sports idols, exploring physical and emotional domains that are way too deep for our own reach. Or maybe we just dig that hunger and love they have for their job. I can’t imagine wanting anything nearly as much as Germany wanted that 4th World Cup or Federer that 18th major or Djokovic that first Roland Garros title (I apologize if you don’t get any of these references). And I think that drive and that desire seep into our veins too. I think maybe we all need that fire to live and loving sports definitely gives us that.

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