Off the record: Why do sports fans care so much?

The AL East Wild Card game was a thing of beauty. But is it too much to hang on every occurrence of a sports game?

When I sat in front of my TV last Tuesday night, jumping in jubilation at what Toronto Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion achieved in his game winning home run, I knew I wasn’t alone.

In fact, at least four million other Canadians were in front of their screens doing the same thing. At one point, 5.38 million Canadians turned on their televisions to watch their beloved Blue Jays in a one-game winner-take-all AL Wild Card game against the Baltimore Orioles.

Last week’s game offered a little bit of everything. I fist-pumped when Marcus Stroman retired the first nine Orioles batters in order. I yelled when the umpire made what I believed to be a blatantly awful strike call. I cringed when I saw Mark Trumbo hit a 2-run home run off Marcus Stroman. I nearly cried when Edwin took the parrot for a walk with a three-run home run to send the Jays back to the ALDS.

Watching the game with my roommate, who couldn’t care less about baseball and probably was more than a little bit morally disturbed by my hysterics, made me question whether what I was feeling was normal. Whether caring about something I wasn’t actually a part of was healthy as a human being. The look on my roommate’s face sure didn’t make it seem so.

I thought a lot about that. I thought about the thousands of fans jumping up and down at the Rogers Centre, at bars across the country, hugging one another and chanting LET’S GO BLUE JAYS at the wee hours of Tuesday night before they would all make their way into work the following day, continuing their normal lives. Mostly, I thought about why sports matter to so many people worldwide.

For many, including myself, sports are an escape from reality. A distraction from more of the solemn things in life that we don’t want to deal with yet are always there. When the bills are adding up and it looks like you’re not going to be able to get by, baseball is there. When you’ve lost a loved one and are mourning in heartache, baseball is there. When the world is at war, baseball, still, is there.

This distraction allows society to become fully immersed in something that is both meaningless and trivial and an avenue to happiness in times of despair. It allows us to extract great joy with every Blue Jays’ victory and feel like we’re best friends with pitcher Jason Grilli even though we’ve never actually met.

When it all boils down to it, sports are just one more example of the communal nature of human beings. Whether it’s religion, education, race, community or in this case sports, it’s ingrained in us to want to become something larger than ourselves. It’s that idea of a nation that society collectively falls in love with.

This is all to say that, yes, it’s okay to allow baseball to consume your thoughts, dreams and conversations for the next month. It’s October, the Blue Jays have the chance to win a world title and if you’re even a partial fan to the blue birds, that’s something you don’t get to say often. Just know that good or bad, win or lose, it’s only an escape.

If you have your own ideas about why sports are so important to so many in the human race, email eric@invermerevalleyecho.com.

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