As the sports editor at the University of Dallas, it is not lost upon me how unpopular sports are at UD compared to most of America. Perhaps it is because some people don’t see the value in sports.
Two years ago, I talked to Dr. John Plotts, executive vice president for enrollment and student affairs, for a story I did on the athletic budget. Plotts was adamant that he wanted to improve and grow the athletics department, particularly when it came to how athletics were perceived by the student body. Plotts said he felt athletics were valuable because they increased school spirit and that, in the development of the student, athletics played a role in the education of the body and soul.
Recently, there was an NFL playoff game that exemplified two reasons I believe sports are valuable to society, both for the athletes who participate and the fans who watch.
The Minnesota Vikings trailed the New Orleans Saints by a point with ten seconds left on the clock. Vikings quarterback Case Keenum threw a prayer to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who made an incredible catch and ran for a touchdown to win the game. In order to make the play, Diggs benefited from Saints rookie safety Marcus Williams misplaying the pass.
Williams was quickly blamed for botching the play. He became the goat for his mistake. Williams sent out a tweet the next day that ended with “I won’t let one play define the type of MAN or PLAYER that I am or will be!” While many don’t do it on such a public stage, playing sports teaches people how to fail. Most people focus on how to be successful, and rightfully so, but people also fear failure. Sports teaches us that if we don’t fail we aren’t pushing ourselves to be as successful as we can be. That mistake will follow Williams throughout his career, but anyone who’s played sports for a significant amount of time has experienced the same thing on a smaller scale. Sports teaches us that everyone fails, but the way we respond to failure is the true test of character and determines how successful we can be.
After making the winning throw, Keenum stood in the middle of the field and began to slowly clap his hands above his head. The crowd of over 65,000 fans in the stadium joined the quarterback and clapped in unison. It was an amazing display of unity and camaraderie. The Vikings have been notorious for gut wrenching playoff losses throughout their history, so it meant a lot to the stadium full of fans who had suffered together to finally taste success.
Sports, at its best, can bring all types of people together and offer an outlet from the rigors of daily life. This has been shown at UD too. It happened last fall when a large number of students came together to support the men’s soccer team in the SCAC Championship. It happened four years ago when the men’s basketball team won their first SCAC tournament game.
The value of sports has been overlooked by some and perverted by others. Sure, it’s just a game, but to many people it represents much more. In the height of the social media era, when everything seems to be divisive, let’s learn from sports and let it bring us together and take the values it teaches us in order to become a successful society.