Sports as an escape

USA TODAY Sports

Boston is known for many things – Clam Chowder, Cheers, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Sam Adams beer, Paul Revere – but sports minded people think about the Celtics, Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots and The Boston Marathon. Last week's events may have wounded a city and a nation, but sports allowed us a way to recover and escape.

It’s been over a week since the bombing in Boston, at the finish line of the most prestigious marathon in the world. It may be hard for some to understand the significance of the race, as the Boston Marathon is most important to runners who love to torture themselves over 26.2 miles.

To run the Boston Marathon, one must qualify with a race time from another marathon within a year’s window. The qualifying times have gotten faster over the years, and race registration allows for the fastest runners to register first – this gives the possibly of some who qualified to not race in that year. For marathon runners, the Boston Marathon is the ultimate goal. You train for months to make the qualifying time, hoping to get the chance to race that magical course. Hence the unicorn as the Boston Marathon logo, a symbol representing the most unattainable object of bravery and distinction.

I’ve qualified for the Boston Marathon five times, and ran it once in 2009. I plan to register and race in 2014, which makes my heart so excited yet so nervous. Running that course was quite emotional, and there are no words that can truly express how incredible the finish line feels. The city of Boston shuts down for this event, scheduled on Patriots Day and opening day of the Boston Red Sox season, which makes for an entire city of cheerleaders.

The last three miles of the course are packed with spectators 10-12 deep, all there to support the runners who earned their spot. Coming up on the last mile is like having tunnel vision – the crowd is silenced, your focus is only on the finish line and your stomach turns in excitement. That feeling of accomplishment is indescribable.

So when the two brothers placed bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon last week, they were not only harming the city and our nation, but the memory of the event to so many runners and families.

It’s taken me a week to overcome the anger and sadness from the event. Like with the Newtown shootings, I purposely stayed away from media coverage for days, not wanting to know the WHYS or the HOWS, and certainly not the WHOS. And for me, this bombing was different because I was there. I could have been there. And I will be there again. I know that finish line. I know the emotions and meaning behind the event. I understand the feeling of confidence from running a marathon and accomplishing something great.

Luckily, all last week I had something to divert my attention from the news coverage and Twitter feeds of the bombing. I had something that could covert my anger into something more positive, allowing me to smile and find comfort.

Sports.

At the core, sports provide entertainment. As we consume sports, we have positive emotions towards the experience, as the "pursuit of fun appears to be the dominant theme of modern cultures, as there are virtually countless ways to ‘be entertained’" (see research article HERE). With entertainment comes the idea of escape, a momentary distraction or mental retreat from everyday life. Sports maximize the positive emotions and minimize the negative emotions. The "thrill of victory" motivates us to consume sports, hoping our team accomplishes the goal of winning. We want the release, we want the feeling of belonging and companionship with others who are just as excited and driven for the same goal.

In the wake of the bombings, so many people turned to sports to find solace. I found an escape in the Monday night Spurs/Golden State game. For a few hours that night, I forgot about what happened earlier in the day and just enjoyed watching the game (even though we lost). And for the rest of the week, we had sport games galore to turn to for entertainment and excitement, games to help us forget. I almost (I repeat, almost) even found entertainment in Kobe Bryant’s Twitter and Facebook rants.

Media plastered images of baseball fans from all over the US dancing and singing to "Sweet Caroline." The Boston Celtics placed a patch on their uniforms and Boston Red Sox wore special "BOSTON" uniforms, all in remembrance. The FCC even understood the emotions on the city when the organization did not fine David "Big Papi" Ortiz after using the F-word during an inspirations speech at Fenway Park. FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, tweeted:

David Ortiz spoke from the heart at today's Red Sox game. I stand with Big Papi and the people of Boston - Julius.

Sports are the universal connector. They bring nations together, cities together, even strangers together, for a collective purpose. Some here in San Antonio may not have been affected by the tragedy in Boston, or even knew about the Boston Marathon, but the surprise attack on our nation made the event personal for everyone. And that unity was evident in the sport world.

How our nation reacted to the bombings is what makes America so incredible. People can be thousands of miles away from a tragedy, yet still find ways to support. Sport rivalries were thrown out the window last week, with teams and fans huddling together for one big win.

So turn on the NBA playoffs. Watch the Spurs play the Lakers. Scream at the TV like the refs can hear you. High five your buddy when Bonner shoots a three. Jump up and down when we get another WIN. Those positive emotions are incredibly powerful to alter one’s mood, assisting in the escape from reality.

Yes, Spurs … entertain us. We need it.

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