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Why Do We Take Sports So Seriously?

I wouldn't have ever been picked to be “Sporty Spice.” I'd probably get picked as the "Likes Stuffed Animals Too Much Spice." Point being, I wasn't much of a sports player or sports fan growing up. I spent most of my days cataloging my stuffed animals' life experiences in a notebook and stirring up self-directed trouble in the neighborhood.

In an ironic twist, in addition to their love of stuffed animals (thanks to me), my boys love sports. Four years ago I'd never heard of "Comp” Sports. Now, most of my time is spent practicing, playing, or talking about them---oh and let’s not forget paying for them.

Future "Sporty Spice - Man Version 64"

Future "Sporty Spice - Man Version 47"

15 years ago if someone told me I’d be a “baseball mom” who spent every weekend and weekday shuffling her kids to practices and games, I’d call them bat-crap crazy. (*Sigh* the things we’ll do for our kids…am I right?) 

Since my kids started playing sports, I’ve seen and heard a lot of things that made me question the inherent goodness of the average human being. I’ve seen coaches yell, swear at, and physically abuse kids (granted, the physical abuse was extremely mild…but still!!). I’ve seen coaches and parents come unglued at umpires and exhibit behavior akin to rabid chimpanzees. I’ve watched otherwise resilient kids brought to raging tears on a continual basis just because they didn’t swing a bat at the “appropriate” time.

They don’t listen to me, but I keep reminding my kids that none of this really matters. Maybe someday they will see my perspective.  I continually question the ultimate effect sports will have on my children. On the one hand, I see amazing opportunities in sports for my kids to build character. I’ve realized that there are so many life-lessons in sports, that at least for now, I can justify paying for and enduring the crazy. Both of my boys work as hard as or harder on the field than anyone. They happily attend 3 hour practices that sometimes occur multiple times per week. Both have learned to bounce back from disappointment and failure.  On the flip side is the time suck, the money suck, and having to base your family’s life around some random coach’s itinerary. There’s watching your uber-talented son get benched for “rolling his eyes” at a bad decision made by the coach. There’s watching your beautiful, sound child have a complete emotional melt down because he strikes out a few times. Oh and my least favorite, having coaches promise us the moon and then stealing our money and disappearing.

So the ultimate question here is why? Why are sports such an integral and important part of so many people’s lives? Why do otherwise logical and intelligent people get overcome with emotion and rage on a call in a little league game that really doesn’t matter? Why do families spend thousands of dollars a year to have their kids play a sport they could play for free with a few neighbors and an empty lot?

The only thing I can come up with is that sports are an evolutionary substitute for battle. Gone are the days when kids were brought up out of necessity learning to fight and defend. War was a way of life for our ancestors. The most competitive and blood-thirsty survived and passed their genes on to us. Violence is no longer wide-spread and ubiquitous as before. True survival is more dependent on your intellectual prowess rather than your physical abilities. And yet, our brains still retain that need to “win”, to “survive at costs” So maybe sports is that conduit through which humans get their fix for battle and for winning or losing and then preparing to fight another day.

I reckon based on my kids’ age I have at the most, five more years as a “baseball mom.” I wonder a lot if I’ll look back on these years with regret or happiness. Maybe, like now, it will be both.

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