At one time sports came with the common phrase, “it’s just a game.” At one time, perhaps that phrase stood true. They were seen as a two or three hour event that you would attend to. Whether it was to participate or attend as a spectator, the game would always end. That isn’t necessarily the case today. Sports in the modern world have become much more than a game or two we can watch on Sunday, or play for our local travel teams. Sports have evolved into something much more… a toolbox. A toolbox that contains all different types of tools for anyone’s modern world needs.
I’m sure some of you are thinking, ‘well what about sports? There are so many different aspects in today’s world.’ That would the point exactly. Modern day sports have so many different aspects, so many different uses, & so many different surprises. I could sit here all day & elaborate on every type of use (tool) that is utilized in today’s modern sports industry, but knowing you guys have don’t have all day, I’ll attempt to point out three of its most useful ‘tools’ today. Still confused? Bear with me…
Let’s reach for our first tool in our modern sports toolbox, recreation. This would seem to be the most obvious and as some would put it, “well duh…” concept. But taking a closer look really can show what you may miss when thinking of using sports for recreation. When it comes to playing sports, nothing is more useful than starting young and getting involved in local youth sports. At a young age, everyone looks for acceptance & guidance.
There is no better way to find that within youth sports. As a kid, you become accepted by teammates, become more involved, & in this process meet a lot of new people all at a very young age. Getting a feel for people isn’t an easy challenge, but the more experience you can gain at a young age, the better relationships you may come across later in life. Yes, of course all ids go to school and deal with other kids everyday, but not in a natural environment.
Youth sports gives kids the ‘ok’ to run around, be a little crazy, & meet other kids with the same interests. Another a great use for youth sports is being able to find a new ‘parental figure’ other than a parent. Face it, kids rebel against parents; kids aren’t too fond of teachers; who’s there to look to for guidance after that… a coach. What better use of youth recreational sports than to teach kids how to become more trusting and open to other people besides parents & teachers?
Beyond just playing a sport, one can think of recreational sports used in other ways How about the way collecting trading cards has almost become a necessity in a ones life. I see kids (myself included) collecting baseball, football, basketball, & even hockey cards to the point where they fill their rooms with boxes of these things. I see adults (young & old) who have binders filled of old baseball cards, that at one time worth a penny; now worth hundreds of dollars. Sports have created the need for abstract collectibles.
At one time there were only sports trading cards. At one point, new types of trading cards were created (Magic, Pokémon, etc.). The idea of recreational sports not only created a global phenomenon for its own industry, but also paved the way for other industries to follow.
The second & what many claim to be the most useful tool in modern day sports would be the therapy it can bring. Yes, of course one thinks of physical therapy almost immediately, as all sports require some sort of physical work out. Physical therapy, while extremely useful, is not really an evolvement within the industry. It has been well documented that daily physical exercise of any kind can be a great form of therapy & stress reliever.
What about sports that most of us don’t play?
What about following professional sports?
Is there any type of positive use in just watching a game, or following standings & statistics one has no control over? Absolutely…
When an individual or specific fanbase closely follows a team in any sport, there must be a reason, right? Sure, people follow the Yankees because they win all the time. Why wouldn’t you want watch your team win over & over again. Then there are fan bases like the Royals. They are the definition of mediocrity (at least up until this past season, but if you stink for so long, you have to get lucky once in a while, right?). The team has not only won a world series in decades, but most of the time, doesn’t even field a competitive team. Yet, they still have fans, they still have people following them as ‘diehards’ day in & day out. My point being, why do we, as fans, put up with the torture every season?
This is where a mental & emotional therapy comes into play. I like to call it the ‘sports escape’ rule.
I am a diehard New Jersey Devils fan. Of 82 regular season games, I’d say I watch at least 60 (probably more toward 70 when they are having a good season). The Devils haven’t won a cup since 2003, and have missed the playoffs 3 out of the last 4 years, yet I continue to religiously watch them every season regardless. People sit & watch games to not just root for a team anymore, they sit & watch games to escape their day.
We use sports today as a great escape of our everyday problems. Have you ever had a bad day at work & as the day was ending you think, “wow, what a long day, at least the Devils are on tonight.” That is one’s mind already with the escape mindset. In this specific instance, they were ready to escape their bad day at work. I used the specific example of ‘bad day at work’ because its simple & everyone can relate, but put in any type of scenario where one would just want to forget, & the ‘sports escape’ rule applies.
Speaking of evolvement, there is one sports aspect that is possibly the fastest growing aspect of sports that has ever been documented… fantasy sports. I don’t want to get too much into fantasy sports in this article, as I plan on discussing the rapidly growing industry in greater detail in my next article.
Fantasy sports have not only changed the way we look at sports, but have heavily impacted other major industries in the process. For example, how about the debate that fantasy sports has legalized gambling for today’s youth. Or how a Giants fan may root for Dez Bryant because they own them on their fantasy team. Again, I don’t want to get too into detail because fantasy sports have had an impact big enough for me a complete different discussion in a separate article.
The evolvement of sports almost feels like the industry should be dubbed something else. The real question is at what point do we take away the title, “the sports industry.” It has clearly evolved into something much bigger.