Why we keep going

People go to sporting events for two reasons:  1) to see something they can tell their grandchildren about, and 2) to see it with 60,000 of their closest friends.

Bill Simmons made a great point in this piece about the coming labor strife in the NBA (think the NFL only worse because of actual structural problems and not just owner greed) for his new project Grantland.com about the new stadiums being built with fewer, but better seats and something that engages the fans in the seats not close enough to the action (he cites the Cowboys Stadium video screen).

As fans all we really want is parking that is not too expensive and with easy access.  We want to see two good teams playing like the game matters to them (or at the very least one transcendent team playing for immortality).  We want OK food to snack on that does not cost you your first-born child.  Finally, we want to watch the game with other fans who care as much as we do.

A another piece in Grantland, this one by Chris Ryan highlights this last point.  Ryan went to the Barcelona/Manchester United Champions League Final at Wembley Stadium a few weeks ago.  The game was a foregone conclusion (My beloved Manu was no match for the brilliance of what could be one of the greatest sides in the history of soccer.), but Ryan’s description of the fan atmosphere is exactly what any of us want when we go to games.

Ryan sums up what true fans really want in a sporting experience:

Most of all I wanted to see the passion. I’m not talking about voyeuristic, spot-a-hooligan thrill seeking. I’m talking about being around fans who seem to breathe in the sport, who follow their teams all over England and all over Europe, who are so passionate about their clubs, they are moved to song.

So, that is why we will keep going.  The inexorable search for that collective passion and collective feeling.

Every time some owner tries to convince the public and the politicians to pay for a new stadium, they always talk about the jobs created that will help the economy. In actuality, most stadiums do not create that many jobs.  That is not their true importance.  Their true importance is in how these stadiums and these teams help define a community.  That is what we all yearn for:  To be a part of a community.

Even if it is only for a few fleeting hours a week that connection with others is vitally important in this era of laptops, smart phones, and mp3 players that isolate us in public places or 50 inch HD flat screens that let us watch the most technologically advanced movies in the comfort of our own home.  The few moments of true connection that we have help bring together a community made up of every religion, every race, and every sexual orientation.

That and being able to watch great athletes do really cool things live and in person are we will continue to go to games.

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