The Value of Baseball and Sports

The baseball post-season officially begins tonight. Congratulations to the Minnesota Twins for their exciting victory yesterday. Now it’s on to the play-offs on the road to the World Series!

I have been a life-long fan of the New York Yankees, through good times and bad. Some people take their sports very seriously. Those who are not sports fanatics might not understand how, with all the serious problems in the world, people pay so much attention to “games.” Like other forms of entertainment, sports allow folks to escape their everyday concerns even if only for a little bit. It offers a communal bond with friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, even total strangers. It provides emotional release, again on a larger scale than just the mere individual.

In 2001, even though the Yankees lost the World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks, that series had a very therapeutic impact on my city, making many New Yorkers momentarily focus on something other than the recent tragedy of 9/11 (although if you watch those classic games now, you will see how the ghosts of 9/11 were always there, making it all the more emotional).

Everyone jumps on the bandwagon when a team is winning, but that’s sometimes how new fans are born. The sign of a true sports fan is to stick by your team through good times and bad. Although I’ve been a Yankees fan since the days of Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry, Gregg Nettles, Goose Gossage, and the other Bronx Bomber legends from the winning team of the late 1970s, I followed them faithfully through the championship drought of the 1980s and early 1990s, when they couldn’t even make it to the playoffs. But even those times, there were moments of greatness that got me through – the no-hitter by Dave Righetti, the on-the-field heroics by Dave Winfield, Ricky Henderson, and of course Don Mattingly.

That long period without a championship made the eventual Yankees Dynasty all the better. The four World Series rings earned from 1996 to 2000 will be a memory I carry with me forever. I’m sure Boston Red Sox fans feel the same way about their recent championships, as do other followers of other teams that finally win it all.

My dad is a Mets fan, and even after the horrible season they have had, he hopes for better things to come and is now counting the days until Spring Training. It’s that hope that keeps all fans of all teams, no matter what the sport, coming back for more. We watch athletes use their skills to play a game that sometimes transcends the world around them. During those innings in baseball from the first pitch to the final out, life becomes about the game itself, and all our worries are placed on standby mode. People need games, entertainment, and sports.

Play ball! (And go, Yankees!)