Yes, it is soccer. Keep reading and you will find out why. Credit: football.uk.reuters.com

Why We Watch (Or Root In) Sports

Sports are a very interesting thing. People tend to have a very vested interest in something that does not necessarily have a direct impact in their life. They gain nothing direct from the team winning. Yes, there is the joy from the team winning, but that is fleeting. Even when a team wins the championship, there tends to be an empty feeling a couple hours after your team wins the championship. I had that in 2008 with the Phillies.

Growing up in Philly, I just wanted a championship. My dad repeatedly warned me that it is not all it is cracked up to be. When the Phillies won, I had the thought, “Now what?”

One way to really care about sports is to gamble. Many do that, including writer Bill Simmons, who references extreme bets, like “How long will the national anthem be.” (That is a super bowl one with Christina Aguilera) That isn’t really caring about the sport though. It is interest in making money. Plus that can take the enjoyment away because of the nerves associated with the bet. (Assuming it is a decent amount)

Some watch purely because of love for the sport, but that doesn’t imply that you care who wins that much. As much as I love the 76ers, I love watching basketball more. If the Sixers lose, I will still somewhat of enjoyed watching the game, because I love basketball so much.

But why do I care why some teams win so badly, if it doesn’t help me. That question still hadn’t been answered for me , and I had always wondered about it, until this morning.

To give a little background about how I figured this out, I watched the World Cup last year in soccer. It was somewhat enjoyable, and this past winter I watched a soccer game on ESPN. It was two English teams: Blackburn Rovers Vs. the famous Manchester United. The game finished 7-1, which was thrilling. I sort of put in the back of my mind that soccer was something not bad to watch if I was bored.  With the lockout, I thought that maybe I would follow English soccer. Since it was summer, the premier league wasn’t playing, but I followed all the player trades, or transfers as it’s called, and settled on Blackburn as my favorite team.  That was because I saw them play first and I couldn’t pick Man U because I hate being a frontrunner.

The season started, and Blackburn struggled mightily. Since there was no NBA to watch, I could be patient because it was the best thing to watch. I learned soccer had relegation, where if you finish in the bottom three spots, you go to kind of something like the minor leagues. Only a few teams usually challenge for the title, but being in the league is successful for some teams and their fans. Well, anyway, story over and I’ll get to the point.

Blackburn was in last and almost surely going to be relegated as of this morning, and they were playing the mighty Manchester United, tied for first. The game was on ESPN, and yes, I got up at seven to watch soccer.

I never really expected Blackburn to win, or even tie. After all, Man U had only lost at home seven times in six years, at 19 home games a year. The game started Man U’s way, as they had the first few shots. Then Blackburn got a shock goal to get a lead. I still thought they would lose, as Manchester United continued to pepper the goal with shots. After the game went scoreless into halftime, Man U brought on a sub and played with renewed vigor, trying to tie the game. Then, off a little pass, the ball took a deflection to a Blackburn player and he scored. 2-0!

I started to believe Blackburn could win, an amazing thing, but Man U got one back in 20 seconds and had equalized in 10 minutes. With half an hour left, and United taking all of the shots, it was almost sure that they would win. Surely Blackburn wouldn’t.

I could barely watch. Man U continued the “siege” of Blackburn’s goal, as the commentator put it. Then, with ten minutes left, the unthinkable happened. Off a long kick, a Blackburn player out jumped the goalie to head the ball up in the air, then ran down his header and beat more defenders to the ball to score.

Man U would try desperately to equalize, but it was no use. Blackburn was buoyed, and played inspired defense. The referee blew the game dead, and you could hear a pin drop, with the 80,000 Man U fans silent. Blackburn was ecstatic, as was I.

I then realized why we watch sports: To see that one thing that you rarely ever see, that inspires you. Little, downtrodden, poor Blackburn beating the rich powerhouse Manchester United. It really is a metaphor that anything is possible in life. Anyone can do anything. The Sixers could win the title.

Did this have an impact in my life? I don’t think so, but maybe it will teach me anything is possible. Not to give up. Who knows, it may help me when I am sick of stuff and need inspiration to do it. But even if it does not do that for me, I know one thing:

When the referee blew the final whistle, there was no empty feeling.

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