Sports are about life, not just winning and losing

This isn’t going to be your typical sports column.

We need to get that out of the way immediately. I hope it doesn’t make things awkward, just give me a minute to explain.

I just don’t care about the professional sports, statistics and fantasy leagues. To me, sports are life. Sports are unavoidable. Trust me, I’ve tried to avoid them.

Sports are everywhere, in principle and in theory. There are over 70 listed athletic and recreation organizations on campus in addition to the 21 Division-I sports and, of course, there’s the overwhelming presence of professional sports worldwide. Then there’s intramural activities, workout facilities and the fact that everywhere you look someone is playing something.

You might consider yourself not a sports person or a sports fan, or think you have absolutely no interest in sports, but really, sports are a gateway between the principles of play and reality.

I look at the athletes’ backstories: How behind the fame and the money and the phenomenally unrealistic athletic capabilities, they are just like us.

One of my good friends constantly tells me that every touching sports story is the same: Successful athletes find out they have a terminal illness, then they attempt to fight said illness while continuing to compete. Then the athletes either overcome the illness or pass away, thus concluding a heartbreaking tragedy or a heroic tale.

This is untrue.

There’s so many different story lines that these athletes go through, so many different paths they take in their quest for personal fulfillment, just like any human.

That’s what everyone is searching for, right? Happiness, success and greatness — or simply the ability to go to bed with a feeling of contentment.

The fact that everyone, everywhere, has some connection with sports makes athletes the perfect humans to relate to. The pure essence of the game, worldwide popularity, accessibility and ability to relate to athletes is something nonexistent in any other area of life.

Take the London Olympics, for example: With 36 sports offered, there was something that most everyone could find an interest in. And with 204 countries represented, most everyone could find someone to cheer for, with every athlete came a different story of hard work, success and failure.

I wrote a 10-part series about an Olympic hopeful from Illinois, male gymnast Paul Ruggeri.

I was able to relate every stage of his journey to my personal life: the excitement and passion of pursuing a dream and the frustration when facing roadblocks. Then came the anxiety and restlessness of waiting for results, the satisfaction after minor successes and the indescribable feeling of doing everything you possibly could and falling short.

Ruggeri ultimately didn’t make the U.S. Olympic team. He’s a human like everybody else, even though he could probably scale a building and then do multiple back flips on top of it.

His journey of ups and downs, differing emotions and a progression through stages of life are applicable to your work life, personal relationships and education. Through sports, you can emphasize with these feelings on a large platform.

When Gabby Douglas became the first American gymnast to win the individual and team all-around gold medals, she inspired not only young gymnasts and African-Americans across the nation, but any young person with dreams about any form of success.

Look at cyclist Lance Armstrong, whose fall from grace was displayed to the entire world. Every part of his story is inspirational and relatable, even now. Life is continuing for him, despite everything that’s happened. Armstrong is the perfect example of real life, where people face remarkable successes and heartbreaking failures and even the intuition to walk away from it all.

Every athlete has a story and the story never stops, even after the pinnacle of success is reached — just like with all of our lives.

There’s a little bit of an athlete or sports fan in everyone, even if you’ve never realized it before.

This year, we’re going to explore everybody’s inner athletic persona. We’re going to find the less common themes and angles and the less talked about activities. We’re going to travel the bridge between life and sports and everything in between.

We can look at athletes and learn from them, even if we never pick up a ball.

_Emily is a graduate student. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @EmilyBayci._