Why do we even like sports?

By Gray Hughes


The other Sunday, I was watching my beloved Philadelphia Eagles lose in heartbreaking fashion to the New Orleans Saints.

I was at my mother’s house watching the game with her.

As the Eagles were driving on what would turn out to be their final drive of the game, my sister came home.

My sister has absolutely no interest in watching sports. She plays lacrosse, but other than that, she has no interest in sports.

She started to get into the game, which made me really happy. I always enjoy it when someone I am close to starts to enjoy sports for the first time.

But when the ball tipped off Alshon Jeffery’s hands and into the arms of an awaiting Saints player, my sister yelled out: “This is why I don’t like sports.”

Which got me thinking. Why do I like sports?

I have been a big sports fan my whole life. The Philadelphia Phillies and Flyers are my two main loves, and the Eagles and 76ers come in a close third and fourth.

I grew up in a sports-loving family. My mom played softball in college, and my uncle and grandmother groomed me to be a fan of all teams from Philadelphia.

My dad used to take me to watch Phillies games at the old Veterans Stadium. When they tore that down, he would take me to see them play where they play now, Citizens Bank Park.

My mom took me to Eagles games once I became old enough (anyone familiar with Eagles culture at a game could understand why you need to be at least 12 before going to one of those games).

I have been to countless Phillies, Eagles and Flyers games with my friends over the years. It became sort of a right-of-passage when we were old enough to road trip up to Philadelphia, go to a game and spend the night at a hotel.

When my girlfriend was living in Philadelphia, on many a weekend day could we be found at Citizens Bank Park watching the Phillies or at the Wells Fargo Center watching the Flyers. (I could never get her to go to an Eagles game, though).

When one of my teams from Philadelphia are on, it becomes appointment television—no matter how bad we are.

Watching those games has taken years off my life, though. When we win, I am ecstatic. It absolutely makes my day.

But when we lose, it pretty much ruins my day.

When I was in middle school, and whenever I watched the Eagles, which were my favorite team at the time, I used to cry if we lost—which seemed to happen a lot then.

Sports are crazy. They make absolutely no sense.

There is no reason why grown men making millions of dollars to play a game should affect my mood if we win or lose.

But they do.

Sports provide the perfect outlet in my opinion.

When I watch sports, I forget about the problems of the outside world for a couple of hours.

I immerse myself in a world of made-up problems. Like is Tom Brady the best quarterback of all time? Are the Phillies going to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado?

None of these “issues” have any impact on day-to-day life.

The Phillies signing Harper or Machado will not end the government shutdown. Brady winning another Super Bowl ring will not solve the crisis in the Middle East.

You can call me naive or accuse me of burying my head in the sand, but when I watch sports, I forget those problems exist for a couple of hours.

In this day and age, when the news cycle is never ending, sometimes I need an escape.

When I talk about my teams, for whatever reason, I say “we.” I have never come close to playing professional sports, so there is no reason for me to refer to my teams as a “we.” But I feel invested in them. I live with them, I die with them. They are as big of a part of my life as they can be.

Sports also give us something to bond over.

Whenever I see someone here wearing a shirt, hat or jersey from one of my beloved Philadelphia teams, I always make a point to say something to him or her.

I may get a strange look, but I don’t really care. It reminds me that we share a common bond, no matter how far away I may be from home.

I haven’t been paying as much attention to sports since I left the East Coast, but I do my best to follow along (I listen to WIP, the leading sports talk station out of Philadelphia, every day at work).

Even thousands of miles from home, sports still provide me with the perfect escape. I can forget about deadlines and editing for a couple of seconds when I watch Claude Giroux set up the perfect goal or when Joel Embiid dunks on someone.

So never say to me “it’s just a game” because, to me and millions of others, it’s more than just a game.

It’s an escape we all need and deserve right now.