Why I Watch Sports

On Saturday, Indiana upset Kentucky, the number one team in the country, on a last-second three-point shot. It’s hard not to talk about a win like this in exaggerated terms. It FELT bigger than it was. This game will be a defining moment in the history of Indiana’s program and will be recognized as the moment that Indiana returned to national relevancy. It is also the defining answer to why I watch sports. Redemption, hope, excitement, happiness, joy, being a part of something bigger. All of this was at play when Christian Watford put up a 21-foot shot that he described as “probably the biggest moment of my life.”

Indiana basketball means more than it “should” to a lot of people. Those who went to Bloomington, kids my age who were on campus when AJ Moye blocked a Carlos Boozer dunk attempt en route to an Indiana upset over Duke, know why. When IU basketball is good, the town feels different. There’s an energy in the air that is indescribable. It’s a unique experience to be on a campus of 30,000 plus students and know that every one of them is watching and hoping for the same thing. The energy leading up to the game, all the emotions that ride in the balance, and the celebration that follows are unforgettable. All of this is what the Indiana fan base has been missing over the last three years, and all of this is what we all won back when that shot fell. I’ve long since graduated, but that same feeling returned when I watched that game.

When it ended and the shot went in and my cell phone blew up with texts from friends and relatives all around the country, I knew I had just witnessed something special. I re-watched the entire game and watched the replay of the shot probably fifty times. Look at the crowd in the main picture of the post. The passion and love for the basketball team is undeniable. From time to time, I forget how great Assembly Hall looks on television, and then a moment like Saturday happens and it all rushes back. Indiana is back and Indiana basketball matters again.

Over the last couple of years, suffering through torture at the hands of my sports teams, I’ve often said that I would write sports off forever. Without the hope that your team will win, there can be no payoff, no reward. What a win over the number one team in the country does, however, is give that hope back. It makes it real again, and it reminds you why you watch. Watch the reaction video of the fans not lucky enough to be in the stadium. This game mattered to the entire community. Bloomington is a town that prides itself on the basketball tradition of its university. The last three years tarnished that reputation, and the faith we’ve all put in Tom Crean to bring it back was affirmed on Saturday.

Indiana probably won’t compete for the national championship this year, but that’s not what we needed. We needed affirmation that IU can compete on that level, we needed to be given hope that sooner than later Indiana basketball will matter the same way it always has.

One of my favorite television shows of all time is Friday Night Lights. The final sequence of the series involves a Hail Mary pass to win the championship game. The directors of the show chose not to focus on the celebration that occurred afterwards but on the reactions of all the main characters as the ball was in the air. I’ve taken to running Indiana’s final shot back in my head, setting it to the same song Friday Night Lights used (Riceboy Sleeps,“Stokkseyri”) and thinking of what was running through the heads of all the “main characters” as that shot went up. Here’s the cool part. For that moment, everyone was thinking the exact same thing.

 

And that’s why you watch sports. To experience those moments in time when EVERYTHING is on the line. When it all hinges on that very instant and all you can do is hope. Hope that the ball goes in the basket, hope that your team wins, and hope that your prayers will be answered.

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