My escape, my vice, my outlet has always been sports. Some enjoy art, some song, some dance and others music. My go-to “thing” for as long as I can remember has been anything and everything sports: boxscores, game recaps, conversations and arguments. But best of all, watching sports. There’s just something special about a team coming in clutch and delivering a big win that I can’t get over.
Critical games have a way to stir every possible emotion of a fan in the span of two to three hours—if they’re lucky, two to three minutes. There are the dark moments of sports where our heroes and favorites let us down, whether it be in game or off the field. But sports can also lift hopes and spirits. In the past decade, there have been numerous disasters, but two have always stuck out in my mind: Hurricane Katrina the Boston Marathon bombings. They’ve had an impact on me, not because of the incidents themselves, but how a team in each of those cities was able to become a rallying point people could smile about.
Hurricane Katrina was the deadliest of all-time with at least 1,245 dead and the costliest at $108 billion in property damage. Though the entire Gulf Coast was affected, Louisiana—specifically New Orleans—was hit the worst. To react to this tragedy, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, home of the New Orleans Saints, housed 26,000 people during the storm. Locals would point to the Saints marching back in for the NFL season as the start of recovery. Struggling businesses were barely getting up and running again, but as the season began, the city began to show some life. Business owners and the locals were confident once again as people started to flow back to watch games. Five years later in 2010, the Saints won their first ever Super Bowl title and covered New Orleans with pure bliss.
In 2013, two attackers set off two homemade bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The bombings and aftermath injured 280 people and killed six. Two of the deaths and 16 of the injuries occurred during the apprehension of the bombers a few days later. When the Red Sox returned from a road trip, the organization held a ceremony to honor victims and first responders. Designated hitter and future hall-of-famer David Ortiz was addressing the crowd when he smoothly said, “This is our f******city. And no one’s gonna dictate our freedom.” The “Boston Strong” motto was etched into their ballpark’s grass and became a reminder throughout the season of the tragedy. That same year, just seven months later, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. During their victory parade, Jonny Gomes and Jarrod Saltalamacchia placed the trophy where the Boston Marathon finish line was.
Sports are odd in the way they can bring strangers together. There are sometimes negatives, like riots and disagreements. But on a global scale, there aren’t too many things that can bring two random people, who’ve lived very different lives, to have an enjoyable and fun conversation.
I always think back to my summer in 2015, when I had the opportunity to travel France and Italy. While in Venice, I got lost and wandered to the residential part of the city. The waterways were the only calm water I’d seen all day without a single water taxi or gondola in sight. There were no sounds of tourists from any direction. Kids were running and biking around. I was wearing a San Francisco Giants hat, when an elderly gentlemen complimented me. He mentioned he became a fan while growing up in New York before retiring to his parents hometown of Venice. Without my hat, I probably would have just been another tourist to him, but the hat connected us. We were both fans.
The World Cup, Olympics, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, ATP, PGA, Super Rugby and so on have all been points of conversation for me. Not just because of my obsession with sports, but because—whether for good or bad—sports have the power to unify. It’s about love of sport, love of team and sharing that love with other fans and even the opposition.
My time as a fan has been an emotional rollercoaster. The San Francisco Giants blew the 2002 World Series, but won three rings in five years from 2010-2014. Didier Drogba and Chelsea FC dazzled me with their 2012 gray-hair inducing victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. In 2014 Damian Lillard hit a series winning shot with 0.9 seconds to push the Portland Trail Blazers to their first playoff series win in 14 years. Though they never won the Super Bowl, the 49ers went to three straight NFC championships from 2012-2014. I’ve enjoyed in my favorite team’s success and dwelled on their disappointments, but all of it has been worth the memories.
I’ve always enjoyed reading articles and keeping up to date with sports news. Coming to USF, I didn’t think anything of sports writing. I wanted to focus on my academics and get through school in hopes of one day bringing my college education to help in the Philippines.
But part of any college experience is getting involved. It’s my absolute belief that half of one’s learning will come from the classroom, but the other half—growth and maturity—is going to come from one’s involvement. The clubs and organizations someone becomes involved in will shape them and become part of their identity. The SF Foghorn has given me another outlet and has let me put my love of sports onto paper. The Foghorn has given me a chance to let my creative juices flow and has introduced me to some of the most unique characters I’ll ever meet. Thank you Foghorn. Thank you sports.
Photo Credit: Wiliam Hernandez