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. Continue reading LSA Theme Semester Events
Having attended a small high school in a small town, hearing about a fellow student experimenting with marijuana was always so controversial. First, the entire school found out and then it quickly escalated to parents, teachers, and coaches, and was “the talk of the town.” Coming to the University of Michigan, a very liberal college, seeing the nonchalant talk and shameless usage of marijuana was a bit of a culture shock. It has changed my view of marijuana and I have come to the point where I don’t see any reason for not legalizing it. Continue reading Mill on Marijuana
This pass Saturday, I, along with thousands of other U of M students, witnessed the Men’s Basketball team’s shocking loss to the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). While I can honestly say I enjoyed nearly every minute of the game, the end result was truly disappointing and carries major implications for the potential of our team this year—at least I was told.
To start the first half, our players appeared to have a slight edge. We did a really good job passing the ball in the first several possessions, though our ability to produce consistent stops on the defensive end seemed challenging. By the end of the first half, a dominant team seemingly was nowhere to be found.
In the second half, the tone of the audience saw a drastic shift. As NJIT slowly created a lead for themselves, I began to overhear surrounding fans contemplating the possibility of witnessing a major upset. “This can’t be happening,” a fan sitting directly behind said. “We’re way too good to lose to a team like this,” another said, highlight her general sentiment of utter disbelief. One of the team’s star players, junior Caris Levert, led the impressive offensive effort in the second half, but his personal success proved not enough to challenge the nearly perfect-from-the-field shooting opponents. The end score of the tense and clearly competitive contest was 72-70, in favor of the visiting team.
For a fan of any sport, there exists an ever-present consciousness of the feasibility of unfavorable results. No matter how good a sports team is, the reality is that to win, you must lose—though, of course, some teams end up losing far more than others. Coming from Washington, D.C., I am extremely familiar with that reality.
In recent years, the major four professional sports teams (baseball, basketball, football and hockey) that call D.C. their home have experienced abysmal results when faced with achieving “champion status”—to say the least. The Washington Capitals—the hockey team—consistently yield a high playoff ranking, only to be defeated in the first or second round by an unworthy competitor. The team has yet to win the Stanley Cup. The Redskins, considered the most historically successful D.C. franchise, hasn’t won the Superbowl since 1991. In the past two seasons, the team has posted a total of six wins. Similarly, the Wizards haven’t won the NBA championship since 1978 and have also recently struggled in the early rounds of the playoffs. Lastly, the Nationals—the most recent testament to the city’s unsuccessful athletic state—for the past two years have been considered favorites to win the World Series (as projected by ESPN). The team was filled with young talent, considered entirely capable of bringing the World Series back to D.C. for the first time since 1933. This year and last, the Nationals suffered early elimination from playoff contention by subordinate competitors, each of whom boasted fewer wins throughout the regular season. I had the distinct misfortune of observing the final game of the Nationals season a year ago—an event that will forever go down in history as one of the most disappointing loses for a D.C. team in the playoffs.
The game started nothing like it ended. Before the game and throughout the first four innings, fans were loud and filled with excitement for what was to come. The game was the last in a series against the St. Louis Cardinals that would decide who would advance to the next round. The Cardinals held a notorious reputation for being a team that executed on an elite level in the both the regular season and in the playoffs. With an elite pitching from our then ace, Gio Gonzalez, and sold early run production, the Nationals created a six run lead (6-0) by the end of the third inning. That lead was soon to disappear.
By the bottom of the ninth, the Nationals were up slightly (7-5). Davey Johnson, the team manager, called in its final pitcher, Drew Storen, to close out the game. In that one inning alone, the Nationals blew their lead from 7-5 to 7-9. The Cardinals ultimately won the series, but lost the next round to the San Francisco Giants.
On the train ride home, I remember a sense of incredulousness filling the air. Washington sports fans were experiencing a feeling that felt all too familiar: failure in the playoffs. I remember claiming that I no longer considered myself a fan, for the shock was too challenging to come to terms with at the time.
In witnessing both unexpected losses—the Men’s Basketball team this weekend and the Nationals a year ago—I can’t help but ponder why people continue to come back and support their favorite teams. According to Bartlett Giamatti, the former commissioner of Major League Baseball and author of Take Time for Paradise, “sports can be viewed as a popular or debased religion.” I can’t up help but agree with this assertion. Only those who follow sports can truly understand the satisfaction of having your team find success. With both professional and collegiate athletics, a team’s results are often viewed as an extension of a person’s identity. Fans defend their teams as if they are protecting their own children.
Since enrolling at the University of Michigan, I have noticed an increasingly strained relationship I hold with my home city as a result of distance. After watching the Washington Nationals get eliminated from the playoffs this year, I felt like a major link to my city had been destroyed. I knew my fandom wouldn’t be compromised by the loss, but it made me sad to think about how I could no longer brag about the Nationals to those I met. I can only hope that a similar affinity with the Michigan Basketball team develops during my time in Ann Arbor.
As Michigan students, we all know coach Bo Schembechler’s legendary speech about ‘the team’ from 1983. “No man is more important than the team. No coach is more important than the team. The Team, The Team, The Team…” In fact, this quote is one of the most famous lines in sports history. But is the team actually more important than the coach, the catalyst and leader of that very team? In many instances yes, the team as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but what if I told you there are several circumstances in which the coach is in fact more important than the team?
You and your family are on a cruise for two-weeks! While most of the cruise stops have been in English-speaking countries, the last stop will be in a foreign country where little to no English is spoken. You and your family will be in this country for 4 hours and have an unlimited amount of money to spend. You are in charge of planning the itinerary for your family. Out of the following activities, which are you most likely to enjoy? (Keep in mind that you and your family are not familiar with the local language):
- A highly-acclaimed drama film (spoken in French, with no subtitles)
- A guided tour of the town (the tour-guide speaks broken English)
- A professional soccer game
I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that you chose answer 3. Why?–because sports are universal. Sports cross all geographic, ethnic, and religious boundaries. It doesn’t matter what language you speak, what background you’re from, or what socio-economic class you’re in; sports are something so universal that it doesn’t matter who you are, you can enjoy and understand sports no matter what.
This past year, I had the privilege of spending a gap year abroad in Israel. I must admit, despite being immersed in the culture for an entire year, I am far from being a fluent Hebrew speaker. Upon returning home to America, my parents were shocked to learn this and asked me how I was not yet fluent. I explained to them that throughout the entire year, I had mostly been with other Americans. I had been with my friends from home, my friends from my program, and other American students throughout the entire year. We almost always went to “touristy” spots, which were designated for English-speaking tourists. I rarely was in a situation in where everyone only spoke Hebrew.
Another question I anticipated my parents asking me was if I got the chance to visit my relatives in Israel. The answer to that question was, “no.” Extremely upset with me, I explained to them matter-of-factly, that it would have been awkward spending dinner with my relatives who I have never met and only speak in Hebrew. Despite their initial disappointment, they knew I was right. They moved on with their interrogation and proceeded to ask me the most timeless of questions, “what was your favorite thing you did?” Finally, an easy question! Without hesitation I replied to them, “the Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer game.”
My best friend, being both Israeli and quite the soccer enthusiast, explained that we just had to “go to a Maccabi game before we left.” After much pestering over the first few months, my friends and I eventually gave in and decided to purchase tickets for a game.
December 12th, 2013, we were here. The Maccabi Tel Aviv team was playing the Bordeaux team, not that that had mattered to me at all. I have never been a good athlete or cared much for sports. But, I was here and I decided I might as well get into the game.
To be honest, it was the first, and probably only time that I had felt truly immersed in the culture. It was mid-December, and I know it sounds like a lie, but Israel get’s cold and windy! Here we were, twenty American’s, cheering for the Maccabi team just as loud as the Israeli’s sitting besides us. We were sharing our warm blankets with them and chanting with them as the Maccabi’s scored, and the fact that an entire language separated us, just didn’t matter. The Israeli’s were fervently screaming their chants, and while I may not have known what they meant, I understood their meaning: Win! At last, I had finally felt one with the people.
Just this past week, my sorority friends and I went to the Michigan vs. Syracuse basketball game. As we were going crazy and screaming for the team, I felt like I was having deja vu. This basketball game felt nearly identical to the soccer game I had attended last year. The excitement, the adrenaline, and the energy felt during any sporting event, remain perpetual. It doesn’t matter if you are in Israel, in America, a sport-enthusiast, or a first-time sport attendee; that nervous feeling you get as you anxiously await for your team to score, is universal. The most universal and widespread language I had come to realize, was sports.
This semester, I attended two LSA Theme Semester events that focused on female athletics. Firstly, I attended “Persistence Pays Off: How Women Athletes Changed the Game at the University of Michigan.” This event illustrated the similarities and differences between the experiences of current University of Michigan female athletes and those of the 1980s. The event was structured in a way in which current athletes interviewed former athletes of their respective sports. The pairs of current and former athletes consisted of gymnasts, track and field runners, field hockey players, and basketball players. Continue reading Importance of Play for Female Athletes
Stereotypes, perceptions, rules, what is considered socially acceptable, etc. all mold over time periods. During the Civil Rights Movement it was seen as okay to be racist because that was what was being debated. Now it is very unacceptable to see someone’s life as less important than yours because of the color of his or her skin. During Women’s Suffrage it was okay to not want women to be able to vote, but now if one were to express these feelings they are the minority group and therefore it is not seen as socially acceptable. Those perceptions have completely changed with the molding of society.
Not only do perceptions change but rules do as well. With new advances in technology, sports have changed throughout time. Ice hockey used to be played with “block of wood for a puck” and “all players [had to] play the entire game.” Nowadays a puck is made of “vulcanized rubber” and substitutions are allowed. So because rules have been altered is that not still hockey? Do changes result in a new sport, or is it close enough to the original that it can still be considered the same?