The Color You Bleed
The US economy has been slowly recovering from a downward spiral. World markets continue to fluctuate without avail. Election season has world leaders tearing at each other’s throats. And then there’s Arab Spring (which has now prolonged into summer). As the world seemingly falls apart, there’s one thing that’s been leveling the playing ground: sports. This year brings a few major sporting events that are not only bringing our nation, as well as nations around the world together individually, but also as a world on the whole. These sporting events are keeping this world together at such a trying time by promoting and fostering healthy competition and uniting countries through a common activity. All throughout the summer and fall, fans from all around the world will be coming together in homes, bars, arenas, and stadiums, cheering for their team and their players.
When tensions are this high, the world really does need to be reminded that international conflict will subside – it always does in the end. I think various international sports competitions help de-stress the tense situations of our day-to-day conflicts. In fact, there are few times when sports actually went so far as to stop conflict (even if it was temporarily). In the midst of Biafran Civil War, Pelé was so popular that two rival nations’ leaders declared a temporary hiatus from war just in order to watch him play! Even in a country that’s been torn apart, sports will motivate a nation to come together – the most recent example of this being Japan’s incredible win in the 2011 Women’s World Cup, only months after a devastating tsunami wrecked the nation. These women provided conviction to an adage I heard growing up: “sport is hope’s blood brother.”
When you’re immersed in a finals stage of any competition, everything around you is absolutely tuned out. It’s just you, the players on the court, and the score. Nothing else matters. People will argue that sports are more about competition and division than unity, but is that really true? I mean take the Olympics – athletes seemingly working their entire lives to compete for medals that can only be won at most four times in their professional careers. But to the world, and to the athlete, it isn’t about that. It’s about showing off how far they’ve come and representing their country. It’s more about the experience of coming together with other athletes all over the world than some medal. And for all of us who are athletically incompetent and have to substitute that experience by staring at an idiot box, it’s less about feeling pride for the defeat of another and more about celebrating the victory of your favorites, whether its Usain Bolt from Jamaica in sprints or Abhinav Bindra from India in riflery.
I think the most unifying (and socioeconomically, the most globalizing) part of sports is the fact that it transcends nationality. You’ll say, ‘But wait Anurag, how is that possible? Sports are all about nations pitted against each other, you dumbo!” And you’re right in saying that, but then think: who is your favorite soccer player? Some of the names that will come up are Ronaldo, Podolosky, Robben, Iniesta, Drogba, etc. Knowing my audience, I can guarantee that maybe 10% of the people reading this actually share a nationality with their favorite players.
And that’s the magic of it all – you could care less about where a player is from or how the relations are between his country and yours. I could care less that some of the best players on my favorite IPL (Indian Premier League) cricket team aren’t even from India. At the end of the day, I respect them for how they play, not the color they bleed.