Learning the allure of sports


Patrick Newell

Friday night, my three kids began their weekend stay at my house a little later than usual. The two oldest had a Norwich Middle School dance – the last one of the year, so attendance was mandatory. (Perhaps to maintain social status?)
It was shortly after 10 p.m. when we crossed the threshold of my front door and into my dining room area. The wind-down toward bed time commenced immediately. In the meantime, I flipped on the New York Yankees’ baseball game against the Minnesota Twins. My son meandered upstairs for the night, and while he was seen one more time later on, he wasn’t heard during the critical late-game stages of an epic Yankees rally.
My daughters lingered downstairs browsing a couple of websites as the tension and excitement mounted in the ninth inning. The Twins had ace closer Joe Nathan on the mound to wrap up a win in the first game of a four-game series. Nathan has seldom shown any chinks in his armor the past few years, and is about as sure a bet to seal a victory as any closer in Major League Baseball.
On this night, Nathan was either off his game or the Yankees solved the Nathan mystery for a night. Down by two runs entering their last at-bat, New York plated one run, and with two outs and two runners on base, Melky Cabrera gapped a long single to left-center field that scored the game-winning runs.
The Yankees celebrated, fans celebrated, and I’m sure I was one of thousands of viewers rejoicing on their couch after a thrilling comeback win. My girls heard my ruckus in the adjoining living room, and saw grown men dancing and celebrating on television. They saw their dad’s intensity and focus on a game morph into ecstatic gaiety as my beloved baseball team pulled out a game it seemed destined to lose.
And then Cabrera was pied in the face with whipped cream by A.J. Burnett just as he was conducting a post-game interview on the field. My girls, their interest now piqued, watched a scenario on television they had never seen before.
I didn’t take the opportunity to tell my kids the significance of the moment. I let it play out, yet the feeling I had accurately defines why I love sports. A fan of sports can run the gamut of emotions throughout any game he watches, and this unscripted fare has suspense, drama, cliffhangers, and Jack-in-the-box surprises that may rear themselves on a whim.
Over the next two nights, I was again tuning in to watch the Yankees finish off walk-off victories that were all similar in nature. My girls were on hand to view the theatrics, and I have to believe – if they didn’t by now – they have a semblance of understanding sports’ allure to me and millions of others across the nation.
Now, if my kids could only understand the enthusiasm and pride I feel when they consistently clean their rooms and pick up after themselves.