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Sports: Do you 'get it'?

Susan Bromley (click for larger version)
October 12, 2011 - The day after the Detroit Tigers triumphed over the New York Yankees in a nail biter, I walked into the gas station and picked up copies of the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News, both of which had front page coverage of the Tigers.

The woman in front of me in line turned and smiled at me and I said, "Go Tigers! I thought I was going to throw up last night!"

She nodded, and said, "Yep, I could barely watch."

The gas station cashier looked at both of us and said, "Everyone is so excited. I just don't get it."

"What do you mean, 'You don't get it''?" I asked.

"I work out, but I don't like watching sports," he said.

I just smiled and said, "You're crazy. It's exciting!" I paid for my gas and newspapers, wished him a good day and left. But as I drove to work, I thought about the different attitudes toward sports.

Why did I, and thousands of others, feel like everything was perfect all because the Tigers beat the Yankees and advanced to the American League Championship Series? Why were thousands of Yankees fans devastated? Why do still thousands, maybe millions more people from both Michigan and New York, not care at all?

I'm a Tigers fan and have been ever since I was a child. I was a teenager when the Tigers won the World Series in 1984 and remember all the greats from that team-- Parrish, Trammell, Whitaker, Gibson, Morris, Petry, Wilcox, Hernandez, Lemon, Herndon, Evans, Kuntz. I've followed the Tigers all these years through wins and losses and my husband and I have raised our daughter to be a Tigers fan. We are hoping she will soon see, for the first time in her life,the Tigers winning the World Series.

I like college football, too, and cheer on the Wolverines. To a lesser degree, I watch the Lions and the Red Wings. I love the Olympics and will watch just about any sporting event in it.

There are sports I don't follow or care for, like basketball, golf, bowling, or soccer, but you don't have to be a fan of every sport to 'get it.'

Sports in general are about living vicariously. It's about wanting someone to succeed, to triumph, to win, to do well at that one thing. It's about working together as a team, or relying on yourself. Why do we hang on that pitch? Cheer when contact is made with the ball, or groan? Rejoice when the batter strikes out, or cry when strike three is called? Scream in ecstasy or agony when a homerun is hit or when a fielder makes an outstanding catch? It's because that player represents all of us. Our hopes, our dreams, our ability to suspend our own reality and live that one moment.

There are so many emotions to be felt or at least witnessed in others while viewing a sporting event. Anticipation, suspense, joy, disappointment, devastation, grief, comraderie. Athletes have obstacles or challenges to overcome, just like we do-- injuries, slumps, self-doubt.

We cheer them on and celebrate when they overcome the roadblocks. Our lives don't hinge on whether they win or lose, but when you are a fan, it can feel like the end of the world when they lose, and like world peace can be achieved when they win. The depth of feeling may depend on lots of things-- how much you enjoy the sport, how long you've been a fan, how much you feel personally for the athletes involved, how much of their stories you know. Is this the last chance of a championship for that player who is edging closer to retirement? How about that player who has battled personal challenges like cancer or the loss of a loved one?

Sports brings people together. I am a Tigers fan, along with thousands of others. When they lose, I know I am not alone in my misery. When they win, I celebrate with total strangers in the gas station.

As this column is about to go to print on Thursday afternoon, the Tigers are down 3-1 to the Rangers in the ALCS, having just lost another heartbreaker in extra innings on Wednesday night. By the time you read this, the Tigers may or may not still be fighting to go to the World Series. I, and thousands of other Tigers fans, will either be looking forward to the next game of the 2011 postseason, or we will be lamenting the end of this season and looking forward to next year. Not everyone 'gets it,' as proven by the gas station attendant. But if you've read this far, maybe you do.


Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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