by Gray Graham
Everybody loves sports. Even the people that say they don’t love sports love sports but they probably don’t realize it though. Anything that we do that is competitive, that has winners or losers, is a sport. From spelling bees to marathons, people find an activity that they love and they proceed to find someone to test their skills to see if they can be the best.
But let’s stick to the activities people think about when they hear the word sports. It’s football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, track & field, boxing, swimming, diving, skiing, figure skating and gymnastics. I am sure I left something out but these are the sports most people love. The athletes competing have almost superhuman physical abilities far beyond those of the average human. These athletes do things that ordinary humans can only dream about. Well that used to be the case.
Apparently, according to a recent poll, 60% of American men believe that they have the ability to actually compete in at least one Olympic event competitively. I mean that is mind blowing to me. Maybe it is because of video games that people actually believe that they have the natural ability, skill, and experience to compete with the greatest athletes to ever walk the earth.
This is probably why we hear so much chatter when athletes fail in big moments. I mean we have an entire sports media industry that is built on talking about the mental toughness of athletes. Imagine how you would feel as an athlete if someone had become a millionaire attacking your mental toughness for decades. People that can’t make a layup or turn a cartwheel make a good living criticizing elite athletes about what it takes to compete at an elite level in sports.
There probably are just as many people that watch sports to see people fail as there are that watch because they love the sport. Like many things in our society it seems it is more rewarding to dislike something and cheer against it than it is to cheer something on because of pure happiness and joy.
For me there is something fascinating about the people that can overcome their physical pain and the mental pressure yet still perform in the highest competitive situations. Knocking down those game winning free throws. Catching that game winning touchdown in a blizzard. Sticking that landing to get a perfect ten. Stopping that goal on a penalty kick. It takes a special kind of person to be able to do these things.
These moments are the things that inspire us. To know that no matter what life throws at us we can still fight and maybe win sometimes. That is the thing that means so much to so many people. But times have changed and for some athletes, winning is not the most important thing anymore. Some just want to have peace of mind. It is something that I suspect most sports fans will never understand.
There are so many sports fans that have tried to get to the professional level and failed, that they can not accept that someone would just toss away their opportunity to play a sport they love. Let’s not forget that many of these athletes are wealthy beyond imagination. Even in failure many still have millions of dollars so most people are not going to feel sorry for them and their mental struggles.
As someone that has known many amateur and professional athletes in my life, I don’t think people truly appreciate how hard it is and the sacrifices that they have to make just to make it. We know all about the success stories but that is just a few hundred out of millions of people across the world.
The world is not filled with that many people that can rise to the occasion and perform the way that we ask athletes to do. Most people can’t even cope with the job they have. Now imagine doing that job with the world watching you ready to attack you and everyone you love based on how they think you performed. I doubt many of you could handle that kind of pressure.
Average people quit their jobs everyday. We are seeing more and more people that have decided that winning is not everything. Life means more to them than simply chasing the next dollar or promotion especially after the last year and a half that most have lived.
But this is not something most Americans are going to understand. Our culture is built on working as hard as you can, to make as much money as you can, and to win at all costs. I would say that most of the world has the same philosophy now.
It is going to take a long time to show people there is another way. That it is okay to lose. Heck it is even okay to just quit. At the end of the day the most important thing is that you have peace of mind and you are happy whether you win or lose.
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