…More Than Just a Game
Imagine fourteen teenage boys huddled in my modest living room watching the Patriots amount the largest comeback in Super Bowl history. In this situation alone, there was much more than a broadcast being watched. There was laughter, eating, cheering, and, collectively, bonding. Bonding in the form of fighting over the last fried chicken breast, yelling like maniacs as Edelman made a circus catch for the ages, and reminiscing on stories from the previous Leyden football season. As I looked around the room, I saw people whose race went from black to white, students who attended both West and East, and those who hung out with the group often and those that almost never. Although so many variables separated us, sports binded us.
For some, sports are the annoying task forced upon them for fifty minutes in P.E. For others sports claim one of the largest influences in their lives. While many see sports as just an amusement, the Take a Knee movement proves sports is not strictly entertainment, but, instead, an outlet that brings people closer together. However, this movement, and the political, divisive nature surrounding it, also poses the question: Will sports continue to be the pure binding force we know or will it become susceptible to our contemporary politics?
Our very own athletic director, Randy Conrad, agrees that the question must be answered, and answered soon because, in his opinion, “Sports have always been that neutral ground where you grab a drink, enjoy the game, and escape from everyday, political life. With politics threatening to mesh itself into sports, it’s a scary thought we have to put to rest.” While many are viewing this the same way as Conrad, many others believe sports have never been a binding force. “There were people watching that game with us that were hardly friends,” senior football player Gilbert Hernandez said about the Super Bowl party mentioned earlier, “but after spending an entire day with them and a pigskin, they became part of the group, you know?”
Sure, the story of me and my friends friends being bonded is biased, the idea of sports coming off the field has taken the world by storm. While Kaepernick made waves in his own protest, the magnitude of politics in sports blew up when President Donald Trump spoke and tweeted on his beliefs with protesting. While the Cavaliers’ LeBron James and Warriors’ Stephen Curry are bitter rivals on the hardwood, they both took the attack on their passion, sports, and teamed up on Trump. And the coming together doesn’t stop at the NBA, of course. We are all now very aware of the various teams and players taking knees during the national anthem.
The bond created by sports is so strong that college and even high school level teams have joined the protest that was once hardly thought about. Even at Leyden, the football team has locked arms in four straight games during the national anthem. “When Kaepernick was doing it, it was more of a personal protest,” Hernandez said, “but when Trump said what he said about people we look up to, we knew we had to respond in some way.” And while not everyone on the team agreed with protesting on the stage of the national anthem, everyone did agree to stand in unity, proving how strong the bond of the team is. “To see our entire team come together,” head coach Tom Cerasani added, “not only proved to me that us coaches are producing young men, but that this team is special knowing the rest of the guys on that field are your brothers. That’s something special most people wouldn’t be able to say.”