Column: The greatest escape

E9: What you wouldn’t believe about sports.

Sam L. Jaime

Sam L. Jaime

Sam L. Jaime, Reporter

I’m amused when people can’t understand why sports are so important. Sure, no box score or game has ever had any long-lasting impact, and no matter who’s won or lost, to this point, the world has continued to turn. For many of you, athletes are just grown men and women playing kid’s games. You write off athletes and the sports they play in any non-Olympic competition, because unless your nation’s reputation is at stake, it doesn’t matter.

Like many, I was programmed at youth to believe sports mattered, that the outcome of games and storylines of individuals I’d never meet had some teachable importance. I’ve consistently celebrated World Series championships and languished in defeat, many miles from any actual relevance to the matter. It’s always felt natural to have this obsession, just another part of life, my yearly risk of stroke and heart attack.

Yet as I press ever toward the latter stages of my life, I have begun to contemplate my reverence. I think of what has carried me to this very moment, and why it has been such a closely held part of my consciousness.

My obsession started as a small child in my backyard, playing catch with my dad. It’s impossible to not become emotional when I reminisce about those times, feeling every bit like the scene from “Field of Dreams.” My only memory of attending a professional football game pre-2013 was traversing through the stadium atop my dad’s shoulders, silver and black jelly beans in hand, ready to watch the then-Los Angeles Raiders. I could write novels about the moments of my life like that one.

Maybe it was those bonding moments, or clever programming, that deeply rooted my passion for sports, I truly couldn’t say. Yet as I get older, I can tell you that sports have a mystical power. I’ve seen stadiums packed to the brim, with thousands of people connected in a singular moment. I’ve seen entire cities rally around teams, citizens lining the streets in victory parades. I’ve seen a home run off the bat of Mike Piazza allow New York to momentarily forget the tragedy of 9/11.

That escape, regardless of its length, is afforded to all who simply take the time to forget the real world. After all, sports aren’t real, this very truth makes sports enjoyable. It’s our ability to lose our sense of age, of time, of place, and of reason that enables us to subscribe to something grander.

Ironically, it may be this connective escape that is reality. Maybe the things we stress over daily should be washed away in favor of playing catch in the backyard.

When you can understand this sort of power sports holds over some of us, their ability to bring tears and smiles to our faces in undulating transition, their absurdity seems to dissolve. I think of all the harrowing stories I’ve heard about athletes who came from poverty, across treacherous seas, and political boundaries to make a life for themselves and their families. In this, I believe sports have the potential to guide all of us, whether from distant lands, or atop our father’s shoulders toward an awareness much bigger than ourselves.