Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hey Sports Fans!

It's that time of the year when sports fans just go berserk and SportsCentre is an hour long and jam-packed with stats and information. The Sports section of the paper suddenly becomes the size of the Sunday special and it takes a few hours to peruse it. And we couldn't be happier.

It happens twice a year that the professional sports calendar gets this crowded; once in April, when you have the beginning of baseball, the end of basketball, the NHL playoffs run for the Stanley Cup, car racing, MMA, and some of the most prestigious golf tournaments. Then it happens again in September, with the end of baseball and the run to the World Series, the beginning of hockey, basketball, MMA, etc. There's also soccer tournaments in Europe and other outdoor sports shows. It's an exciting lineup and a great time to be a sideliner.

Speaking as a total sports geek, I love spending that hour glued to the couch, checking out the greatest plays and the latest news. I love the old horse race for playoffs spots and following the NHL draft's Taylor vs. Tyler drama. It's great to have all the excitement, the hot-headed debates, the drama, the heartbreak. It's like reading a rich and layered trilogy, an epic tale of love, loss and betrayal, without the sometimes ridiculous dialogue.

People will say that sports are trivial, but really, they're not. They're just as rich and powerful as good literature or history documentaries. When you think about it, they're all about stories. Every franchise in the professional sports world has a history, full of intrigue, controversy and feeling. The fans and the players alike remember every victory, sad loss, the anticipation of a new year, the excitement of a new acquisition, the potential of a rookie, the legacy of a veteran to sign off. As well, they remember and carry the bitter rivalries, the bad injuries, the bad trades and the in-fighting. Team managers, owners and CEOs are a part of this mix as well, with some of their eccentricities and passions making up the best stories in sports.

Sports are incredibly personal in this way, but they're also very social. They instill a sense of pride within people who are less and less rooted to a particular spot in the world. You can live anywhere on the planet, but nothing shows your allegiance to a place like rooting for its team. It's rare in today's world to see people come together with a common purpose, but you can get thousands of people to cheer on a team to win the Cup for weeks at a time. There is something truly special about that. No matter who you are or where you're from, there is a need deep within us to belong to something, and sports can fill this void.

They also serve an evolutionary purpose. Many species need to assert themselves, showing off who's the fastest, the strongest, the most agile. Even the most disinterested people can't help but be impressed by the fastest, the strongest and the most agile. We love to see the best do what they do best and they love to set the bar higher and higher for everyone. Records are broken, milestones are had and dreams are made on the fields and in the arenas.

That's a lot for such 'trivial' activities.

Now to end with a few predictions (I'm almost always wrong, but I like to do it anyway. I'm a writer, not a fortune cookie).

Tiger Woods is going to hand in a mediocre performance at his first time back, given the intense media scrutiny and moral ass-whooping that he got to mark his debut;

Taylor Hall may still be bested by Tyler Seguin in the final standings for the NHL draft, but he's still going to be the best rookie of his year;

As is the general rule in baseball, the most spoiled teams with the richest budgets will face off again in the World Series, aka New York Yankees and someone else;

Balsillie will try to buy another team and bring them to Hamilton and Bettman will find a way to thwart him again;

Danika Patrick will hold on to her crown as the sexiest car racer;

The Sens will make it past the first, but not the second, round of the Stanley Cup playoffs;

The Stanley Cup Final may have either Chicago or Phoenix, yes, you read that right, Phoenix, taking on the defending champions Pittsburgh or the Great 8's Washington Capitals.

But the sports world is full of surprises and spoilers and anything can happen. Another reason why it's so great.

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