Sports are a pretty big part of my life. I have been watching them for as long as I can remember and frankly I plan on continuing to watch them for as long as I live. This type of intense commitment which millions across the globe share with me has always been somewhat puzzling. I ask myself how is it that I have always been a Yankees, Giants and Knicks fan yet my food or TV and movie preferences are always changing. Why do sports somehow transcend other human behaviors where people are invariably changing their opinions, views and ‘likes’. After attending two LSA Theme Semester events I believe I had formulated a sort of crude and shaky answer, but an answer nonetheless. The first event I went to showcased the film “A City on Fire: The Story of the ’68 Detroit Tigers” and the second event I attended showcased the film “Miracle”. The first movie follows the path of the 1968 Detroit Tigers, as they played their way into baseball history, winning the World Series that year. It also focused on racial tensions and the previous summer’s race riots which brought Detroit to a literal burning halt. The film effectively attributes the team’s success as the reason the summer of ’68 saw no race riots in Detroit. It claims the city came together in support of the team, and even if just for a few months, Detroit saw no color, just baseball. The second movie, “Miracle”, follows the story of the U.S men’s Olympic hockey team as they prepared for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY.
This story also portrays the imagery of unification behind a sports team. The games acted as the battle ground between the world’s greatest enemies: the US and the USSR. America, as Detroit had done in the past, united behind the hockey team making it a manifestation of the nation’s hopes and dreams of defeating the Russians in the Cold War. The idea that sports can transcend the playing field and even come to have greater meaning for the fans than the players seems to be an answer to my question. Loyalties to sports teams are unshakable. The true fan never gives up, never switches sides no matter how bad of a season his team is having. These types of deep emotional attachments derive from the fact that sports teams can become symbols and metaphors for things much greater than a simple win or loss. The citizens of Detroit, for the sake of baseball were able to put aside differences which had caused so much destruction. Hockey, a sport which wasn’t that popular in America, grabbed everyone’s attention. All eyes rested on Lake Placid when the US team beat the Soviets and one of the most famous sports announcing moments in history occurred. Al Michaels’ “do you believe in miracles” captured the emotion of a nation. Although I was only five years old at the time, I can still remember watching then President George W. Bush throw out the first pitch at game three of the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium. With the series following the 9/11 attacks, the President throwing a perfect strike was almost a sign to the country that things would be ‘ok’.
The nation for possibly the first and last time ever, actually wanted the Yankees to win as a sign of solidarity and support with the city and people of New York. Here, as in the examples set forth in the two movies, sports transcend the playing field and obtain a substantial societal significance.