What do you consider when you think about sports? Is it an excitement and thrill for your winning team or is it a passive indifference? As a kid, I played hockey, obsessively. Day in and day out was centered around time at the rink. I went to practice, traveled to my team’s games, bantered in the locker room, and worshiped the Great One—Wayne Gretzky, Himself.
But over the years, I’ve all but completely lost interest in following sports or recreational events. I still stay fit by going to a gym and exercising several times a week. Occasionally, I’ll participate in a self-defense class or MMA class there. But watching a bunch of grown adults playing a game on a television screen and believing the fate of the free world hangs in the balance of whether or not my team wins or loses has seemed trivial, at best.
So, I decided to do some digging.
My family moved all around the state of Montana when I was a kid, so I didn’t have time to make and keep friends. Finally, though, during my 13th year, we landed in Missoula and have stayed ever since. I went to a small Christian school and didn’t know anyone. Then, one day, I introduced myself to a couple of brothers named Chris and Chae who were also new, and we hit it off without much difficulty.
They have been the longest-running friendships I have ever had.
As a child, I was always fairly good at sports. I had good endurance, good hand-eye coordination, and I was very strong. But Chris and Chea took athletics to a new level.
So, I thought to myself, recently. What if I sat down with them and interviewed them? I could try to finally get an idea of what a love affair and lifetime dedicated to athletics is all about. I did worry, though, because perhaps they would think the interview wasn’t in their schedules and I may get to ask only a few questions with short answers.
How far from disappointed I would end up!
Me:So let’s start with a broad question. What is it you love about sports? Many people, I included, see watching athletics about as interesting as watching someone eat. What keeps you dedicated to a lifetime of games?
Chea: I would describe it as a gestalt, almost like an aura over sports as a whole. It’s a way to get immersed inside a feeling of satisfaction.
Me:Could you talk a little bit more about ‘mimicking’ and what that does?
Chea:Yeah, I mean, sports are everything. Look around you at what humans are and always have been. Far back into prehistoric times, we’ve always hunted, we’ve always fought. I think it goes a lot deeper than a game on TV. I think sports speak to us on the level of what it means to be a person.
Me: What is it you like about following a specific team?
Chris: It’s just fun. Our uncle played for the Boston Bruins and it’s a good feeling to stand up for something that feels like it’s a part of you.
Me:You’ve alluded to the fact that sports are kind of a philosophy to you. Do you feel like you carry that with you, everywhere? I mean, do you feel like sports are a main reference point for you in life?
Chea: Not everywhere. It’s something we do for fun and something to take our mind off everything else. But you’re right. In a way it taught us values early on such as always trying your best, working as a team, and being a good loser. That goes back to what you said, so I suppose sports do tie into everything although we don’t always think about it consciously.
Me: You mentioned there being an aura. And Chris, I know you’re playing hockey in the adult league. If you could describe hockey as a color, what would that color be?
Chris:Um. I’d have to say azure blue.
Me: Why do you think kids being encouraged to play sports at a young age is a healthy idea?
Chae:I guess it’s a lot like the animal kingdom. When baby cubs, etc., spar with each other and have matches with each other, its purpose is to get them ready for hunting and protecting the pack. Same thing with kids. As they play and have fun, kids are training for their future role as successful adults.
Me:From a personal perspective, I can relate to playing sports as a kid. Through grade school, I loved to wrestle, shoot hoops, and daydream I was the next Wayne Gretzky or Michael Jordan. But what about watching sports? What’s the allure in that?
Chae:Watching sports is kind of like meditating. It’s a good chance to step back and ponder life. You feel a sense of comradery when you watch sports. And I think it comes from having played in the past and knowing what it feels like.
Me:What would you say about an adult who didn’t play sports as a kid?
Chea: I think it would be harder to get into watching because you can’t really relate.
Me:What do you think about a child who’s not naturally athletic playing sports?
Chea: It still holds value. You might not be the best player, but you still have to support your team and do your part. I was always good at sports but growing up my family moved, and kids gave me a hard time. When they saw that I was such a good athlete, they stopped, and we were friends. Playing sports is largely about respect for kids.
Me:Now I remember in high school, you were the guy who all the girls wanted to be with.
Chae: Sports were the reason I was good with the ladies (laughs). It was also the reason I had good social skills.
Me: Now we talked about your philosophy of sports. Did you think about this when you played as a kid?
Chea:Philosophical stuff didn’t occur to me until in retrospect when I was an adult. Back when I was a kid, it was all about living in the moment and enjoying the game.
Me: What is the grand, take-home message you want people to know about athletics? Where do you see your role in sports for the rest of your life?
Chea:I think the main thing about sports is that it teaches you confidence. I also think it gives you passion, motivation, goal-setting, and a way to express yourself. As far as ‘rest of your life’, sports are something that you carry with you.
Me:Are there other activities you can do, whether it’s from the time you’re a child or if it’s later in life, that teach you the same, or at least similar lessons as sports?
Chae: Definitely! I think you can do that with a lot of things. One example might be music. If you grow up playing music and learn to play with a band, it teaches you the same creativity and team work that sports does.
When I walked out of Chea’s house from our interview, a strange feeling came over me I hadn’t expected. It was like my mind had reached a different plain and I saw things from a perspective I hadn’t reached since my years playing hockey in small-town Montana. I was dumbfounded by Chae and Chris’s ability to articulate what it was about sports that held such meaning. I was also impressed at their clarity of seeing athletics as so pertinent to our role as humans.
Closing the front door of Chea’s house, one final thought occurred. It was when Chris mentioned that if he had to give hockey a color, it would be azure blue. ‘How appropriate,’ I considered. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but when I see blue, I see peace, nobility, and belonging.
I gathered a lot of welcome wisdom from my time at the brothers. Also, it stirred up many forgotten memories of my own time playing sports. There was the time I scored my first hockey goal against a team from eastern Montana. Another time when I won my first wrestling match at a tournament out of town. But the thing I felt most was the holistic, gestalt of an event some take for granted.
Sports are more than a mere trivial competition.
They are an aura of athletics, and everyone has their place on the team.
Picture of my friend Chris playing ice hockey at our rink.