Confession: I really enjoy playing sports.
IT’S HERE! IT’S NFL FOOTBALL TIME.
I should additionally confess that I am from Pittsburgh, and an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I loved watching the Pittsburgh Penguins become Stanley Cup champions this past June, and I love to play sports with friends (particularly ultimate Frisbee).
My journey as a sportsman (notice I am not using the word athlete) began with my mother, who instilled for me the love of sports, primarily through Steelers football, but also through watching the Olympics. I joined the 8th grade basketball team, not because I was good at basketball, but because I wanted to wear a jersey and be a part of a team, and honestly, I just liked competing. I think I scored 3 points the entire season, and I was the 11th man on a B team composed of 11 people. But that didn’t matter, because I am an optimist and love to play sports.
College came, and I played club sports, but that frustrated me because my club team never cared to win much, they just wanted to play. The competitive nature in me screamed against that. Junior year of spring semester came, and I joined the newly formed Ultimate Frisbee club team. I joined this not just cause I was competitive, but I was good. Few sports am I actually good at – most I can say I am competent in, but with this one I was good and I loved it. I worked my butt off each and every practice. I was a substitute player, and I was perfectly fine with that. I learned my position and sought to play hard and ultimately win.
Then I met Ashley, my fiance (who I am marrying in less than four months, btw); frisbee no longer was as important. And while I love playing it, I loved her more, and as a long distance couple I chose her over the club team. And I was and am 100% ok with that.
Two years later, I am writing this blog, and I hope I made the case to say that I am a sports fan. I am competitive when I play and when I watch. Sometimes, competitive is great! Other times, it is a sad thing. One realization of this was when I was with Ashley and my family at my sister and brother in-law’s memorial day picnic. The family was playing volleyball, and I am pretty decent with volleyball. Not everyone in my family is so good, and they just want some family fun time…but not me; I want to win. I want to show off in front of Ashley just how good I am. I also wanted to prove it to my whole family. Not overly sure why, but I wanted them to think I was super talented. Well, Ashley wouldn’t play, and afterward, when it was clear how irritated I was with certain family members who were not diving for the ball, Ashley told me she would never play volleyball with me because I was too competitive. And that was a pretty strong awakening call to me.
There is nothing inherently wrong with winning, desiring to win, or having a competitive spirit. There is something definitively wrong with letting that desire or spirit overtake your love for those around you. Whether you play on an organized team, church pick-up game, family game, etc., I hope you can learn to play with love for the sport itself and love for those around you. That ultimately is what matters.
Sports can be great – I would say they “Are” great, but I know there are those who disagree. And you know what? That’s ok! I am not here to convince you about the power of sports. I am here to encourage my readers that competitiveness is fine so long as it does not hurt others.
As a Steelers fan, I particularly remember the harshness and bitterness of the Steelers/Bengals playoff game last year. This Sunday, the teams are matching up again. Last time they met, a certain Bengals player hit the star Steelers player hard and pretty nastily. The player collapsed and fell flat. The Bengals fans can be heard screaming “I hope he’s dead.” As the injured player is taken off the field, trash is thrown to the field. THAT is exactly what can go wrong with competitive nature – not that competitive nature does that, but when you lose sight of the people you play with and against, a very monstrous dragon will come out of you and the venom is clear.
As you watch your football games this season (and I hope you watch plenty!), and as you play with friends and family, keep in mind that the joy of playing comes in the company you are with and the love for the sport itself.
May the evil dragons in the competitive world be conquered by the positive, valiant dragons that surround your life.