World of sports creates bond between people of all ages

The other day, I was walking down Green Street and yelled some obscene comment. Two young teenagers turned around and scolded me for being inappropriate. I felt bad at first and then thought, “What are teenagers doing walking down Green Street on a Sunday night?”

I have grown comfortable in the fact that Campustown is a bubble and the only people I run in to are roughly between the ages of 18 and 25. Whenever I see someone outside of that demographic, I immediately wonder what on Earth they are doing inside my precious bubble.

There is only one exception to that rule — only one time where I welcome the presence of people of all ages — and that is at sporting events.

There were people of all ages present at “Saturday’s”: football game: plenty of college students, of course, but also families with young children, parents, grandparents, young and old alumni, Boy Scouts there for a special event and a plethora of aged people working as ticket takers, security and concession stand workers.

All these people were intermingled with one another sharing pleasantries and a universal appreciation for Illinois football.

It may not have been the most interesting game to attend; I’d even go so far to say that the most exciting part of the game was when the whole crowd did the wave together. As a reporter, I’m pretty much required to hate the wave at sporting events, but during such a boring game, it was pretty cool to see such a diverse crowd unite together for a common cause, even if it was the wave.

All these people were brought together because of sport. They may have been there for different reasons: Illini pride, everybody in their family was doing it or just as a fun activity on a late summer day.

Maybe not everybody in attendance fully understood the game of football, but they are all able to talk the basics of the sport. In Saturday’s sense, Illinois was winning by a lot. Winning is good. This understanding (or lack thereof) opens the door for simple conversations.

An older woman can ask a teenager, “What just happened in that play?” A little boy can show a stranger the new souvenir he just bought. A younger man can share his frustrations with another about a call simply not being fair.

The universal knowledge and appreciation of football, and sports in general, is enough to bridge any generation gap. Most individuals have some connection to sports, whether they were an athlete themselves, know someone who was an athlete, enjoy watching sports or worked with sports in some sense.

Although rules may change over the years, athletes may have different priorities from the past and leagues seem like nothing but a shadow of their roots — the foundation of sports always remains the same.

My grandpa turned 92 on Sunday. Props to him for that one because every birthday past 90 is a great accomplishment.

I love my grandpa very much and he is a phenomenal person who has lived a long and fruitful life. However, sometimes we run out of topics to talk about because, with 70 years in between us, there is a bit of a generation gap.

Something we can always fall back on is sports.

My grandpa watched a bit of the Paralympics while I was visiting him for his birthday. He was enthralled by the wheelchair racers — he called them “chariot racers” and was amazed when

watching a blind man long jump.

My grandpa has travelled the world (he went to Italy every year for over a decade straight), witnessed an infinite number of life’s little wonders (he raised seven children and ran a grocery store) and experienced great heartbreak (he was orphaned before the age of 10, fought in WWII and has outlived his four siblings and his wife).

With everything he’s lived through, he can still become awestruck by sport, and still look on with wonder as a blind man leaps across a pit of sand. Now that’s impressive.

My grandpa played unorganized soccer before he immigrated to America at the age of 15. In America, he didn’t understand sports right away, though he attempted to play baseball in the beginning. Then, when he was older, he played a lot of golf and started a ping pong group with his friends.

At 92, he’s a little bit past the sports playing age, but still goes outside and throws bean bags. He beats me, which is a little embarrassing, as I’m a college student supposedly in my prime. With vigilance, he watches the Chicago Bulls and he’ll turn on the Illini when his kids tell him to (five of his seven children graduated from Illinois).

My grandpa has not made it to an Illinois football game in years, as the long car ride followed by the uncomfortable seats don’t make for the most appealing experience. We still talk to him about all the games, of course.

When I looked around at the crowd during last weekend’s football game, I saw quite a few elderly men donning their orange T-shirts and cheering loudly in what may have been the most subdued football game ever. I thought for a moment about how that was probably somebody else’s grandparent and how they would probably bond with their relatives after and describe the shutout victory.

I can’t wait until I’m an old lady, talking about sports to anybody who will listen to me. Oh wait, I already do that. Because sports are timeless.

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