The stories behind the sports

Drama, intrigue and excitement – words commonly used to describe a good book or story. But, they are also synonymous with great sporting events. Many people are not interested in sports and see them as boring or too “macho” but the reality is nothing like the stereotype. They are filled with thrilling victories, crushing defeats and courageous comebacks, both on and off the field. While I enjoy watching my favorite players score and seeing my team win, it’s the stories behind the games that intrigue me most.

Sometimes, sports are about the people whose careers and lives were tragically cut short. Ernie Davis was a Heisman Trophy winning football player who had just been picked in the first round of the 1962 NFL Draft when he was diagnosed with leukemia. He died in May of 1963, never getting the chance to fulfill his dream of playing professional football. Perhaps the most recent tragedy lies with Roy Halladay, a pitching phenom who was killed when a plane he was piloting crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. Halladay had retired from baseball, but he left behind a wife and two sons. This year, Roy was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and is the first player to be elected posthumously in their first year of eligibility since Christy Mathewson in 1936.

When catastrophe and devastation strike the world around us, sports are always there to provide respite and bring people together. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the coast of Louisiana. Thousands of people lost everything. The Superdome, home to the New Orleans Saints, was severely damaged during the storm and, in the aftermath, was used to provide shelter for the victims. The Saints returned to the Superdome the following season, winning their first game back for the city of New Orleans.

Some of the greatest moments in sports are the result of an athlete rising above in the face of insurmountable odds. Tiger Woods won the 2008 PGA Tour’s U.S. Open with a broken leg. Dwight Gooden, after the baseball community was convinced he “didn’t have it” any longer, pitched a no-hitter in 1996 against one of the best line-ups in baseball. There are many more people I could mention here, but none exemplify the notion of overcoming adversity more than Jackie Robinson. In 1947, Robinson was the first person to break Major League Baseball’s color barrier. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962 and, after having his jersey number “42” retired by the MLB, was forever immortalized in baseball.

Not all sports stories and moments can be easily explained or defined. Some just give you chills. Some examples that come to mind: the Cubs finally winning a World Series for the city of Chicago after a 108 year drought or President Bush throwing out the first pitch in Game 3 of the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium, 49 days after the September 11th attacks. Even Derek Redmond who, while participating in a race in the 1992 Olympics, tore his hamstring. His father rushed down from the stands to his son; they completed the race together. I can’t think of these moments without getting goosebumps.

Sports, especially baseball, fill me with so much emotion. They can be moving, exciting and extremely exhilarating. And, on numerous occasions, sports have brought me to tears. It’s about more than home runs and touchdowns, Super Bowl rings and championship trophies. Sports have the ability to bring people together and it is the stories behind the teams and successes that make the games so exciting.

For more stories behind the sports, visit our book list and the Sports & Games neighborhood inside the library.

Photo by Nick Jio on Unsplash

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