A blog by: Thomas Williamson Domol
The first sporting event I can remember attending featured zero teams I support. It was a college football game at Michigan Stadium up in Ann Arbor between the Michigan Wolverines and my sister Lisa’s alma mater, the Miami of Ohio Redhawks. Beyond that, I can’t remember the most vivid moments of the day other than the fact that Michigan won. I may not have known it at the time, but if adult me had been in attendance that day, he most assuredly would be privy to the fact that he was there to support his sister, and not necessarily either team on the field.
You see, as the human species, we are some of the best at creating meaningful and lasting long-term memories that we use to build a rapport with one another. We bond with our families in a plethora of different ways; anything from holiday dinners to sharing your analysis of what really happened to Jon Snow on Game of Thrones. One of the cornerstones of bonding with both family and friends is sports, which happens to be one of the most common threads in human existence.
Being as that I live roughly a thousand miles away from my closest immediate family members, trips to the cider mill as a form of bonding are no longer an option. But when Michigan State kicks off from Spartan Stadium against the Purdue Boilermakers next week, I’ll get to share that experience with my mom and dad in Detroit, my sister in Chicago, and my brother in Green Bay, as it unfolds in real time. Over the past five years, no team has provided my family with more thrilling moments MSU Football, including the 2014 Rose Bowl win over Stanford.
In 2014, CNN and Grantland both ran articles about the cognitive and emotional benefits of watching sports, and what they found was surprising to say the least. See, in our 24 hour, always on news cycle, you will find nary a story preaching the positive consequences of watching anything. But what ESPN and CNN found was that not only can watching sports be good for your health, it can actually improve it. This is due to a phenomenon in the brain that causes an individual to fire the same synapses while watching sports, as he would playing sports.
This is to say that when you see Mike Trout hit a walk-off home run, your body feels the same effects of hitting the home run yourself, to an extent. The physical side of it is obviously not felt. Two sterling examples of how this relates to bonding with friends and family both came from baseball; once in 2004, and once in 2006. Imagine October 2004, the Boston Red Sox desperately swinging away in the ALCS versus their archrivals the New York Yankees, down 0-3 in the series, and moments from prolonging the 86+ year “Curse of the Bambino”.
With grit, moxie, and a whole lot of luck, the Red Sox, powered by David Ortiz, Johnny Damon, and some stellar pitching, were able to claw back into the series and pull off one of the most stunning comebacks in sports history. It was one of those moments where you always remember exactly who you were with, and exactly how long your commute home was that day. This was a bonding moment for my dad and I, whom as suffering Tigers fans could empathize with losing, and were able to appreciate it as a “remember when?” moment from a historical perspective. Then, in 2006, when the Detroit Tigers, just one season removed from one of their worst seasons in franchise history, shocked the baseball world with an improbable run to the World Series. My buddy and I ended up at an East Lansing McDonald’s at 2 in the morning leading a “Let’s Go Tigers” chant. It was dream-like, and really fun.
These are my moments, and could be yours too, but perhaps for different reasons. Some sports moments have the power to bring an entire nation together, like in any Olympic year, or in 2014, where Tim Howard and the United States Men’s soccer team captured the imaginations of millions around the country and around the world with a sparkling run at the World Cup in Brazil.
This is the stuff people live for. A place where drama, heartbreak, passion, and elation all converge. The best part about bonding through sports its perpetuity, new memories are created, year after year to keep brining people closer together. What matters most to you? What gets you out of your seat? Call your mates over, and start watching sports together, then remember how you felt while doing it.