“Quantifying my love for Syracuse basketball is actually impossible. It is something that will forever link my dad and I, and it constitutes some of our best memories. I think that knowing how much the game matters to both of us and how much we care about Syracuse is entirely unique and special.”
My roommate here illustrates just how impactful sports—no matter what sport it may be or the level of competition—proves to be for fans everywhere, transcending all of the crude statistics, historic performances and coaching tactics. The power of the game lies in the fact that it’s always more than a game. And the way that the ball bounces in a national semifinal or an exhibition or a high school tryout doesn’t hold the most significance in the long run. For my roommate, sophomore Jonathan Safir, whom I quoted in the introduction, Syracuse University is what unites him and his dad, but there are heartfelt stories like his everywhere—and that’s the ultimate point of sports.
Basketball, soccer, or whatever else it may be always mean something more than the roll of the ball, that one defensive possession, his offensive execution down the stretch. In the end, these are just minor workings in the larger purpose of athletic competition—its ability to bring together fans stands out above the rest, and the memories of togetherness that something like the Orange can produce proves the very worth of sports.
I have always tried to quantify the love for sports—a player, a team, a style of play—and it’s more difficult than one would expect. While watching the Syracuse Orange take on the Michigan Wolverines this past Saturday night, the whole time I was left asking myself some very basic questions. Why exactly do we care so much about these guys running up and down the floor? Why does someone like Michael Carter-Williams or Trey Burke—two of the best collegiate players in the country, by the way—matter so much to someone like my college roommate? Why exactly does he care so much about MCW and his shot selection and his turnover rate?
And then it dawned on me. The true impact of sports—going beyond the trivial percentages and records and averages—lies in the unquantifiable and immeasurable. Something like the Orange can matter so much because there’s so much that statistical analyses cannot calculate and track; something like the bond between father and son can be strengthened and eventually blossom through a shared love for sports. All of the statistics in the world can’t quite quantify the beauty of that strong relationship.
Bonds. Memories. Magical moments. Sports can provide all of this and then some, regardless of winning percentages, efficiency ratings and career averages. They bring us closer together, and that’s no small thing. The ability of sports to transcend the game being played certainly doesn’t escape me, either. In my roommate’s case, the bright orange hue of Syracuse University has united father and son for years, and will continue to do so for many more. For me, the bond between father and son was solidified by the historic green and white worn by Boston Celtics present and past. The trials and tribulations of a Boston sports franchise over the past decade brought my dad and I ever closer and closer—we had in common the competitive juices of Kevin Garnett and that sweet stroke of Ray Allen’s jumpshot for numerous years, and our bond tightened and tightened with each and every evening broadcast on CSNNE. As the Celtics navigated their way through the postseason and engineered a breathtaking championship performance in June 2008, my father and I watched on our comfortable living room couch, just like we had back in October through March.
But it wasn’t the winning that brought us together—or the losing, or the incredible individual performances that we witnessed along the way. None of that stuff mattered. The only thing that endured—through thick and thin, through the exciting wins and demoralizing losses, through instant classics and injuries—was the bond that formed through those nightly NBA games. It’s precisely because we were together for such extended periods of time—three or four hours at once—that something so ordinary could mean so very much. Again, the unquantifiable. All of the stats and breakdowns and pregame shows couldn’t quite capture the valuable time that my father and I spent together.
Now, as a sophomore at Vassar College whose primary residence is the rundown, but charming, Cushing House, I watch these Boston Celtics by myself. Alone. On my computer in a creaky first floor dorm room. I watch as the proud warriors that I’ve grown up with limp on into the postseason without the electrifying Rajon Rondo, but with all of the same heart and hustle and confidence that doesn’t just go away all at once. I watch as they steer right into the clutches of the explosive New York Knicks, who don’t rely as much on heart and hustle as shooting and shooting. As I stare right at the impending misery of an all-too-likely first round defeat—as heart and hustle and Paul Pierce just don’t quite put enough points on the board—I remember those winter nights with my dad, when there was nothing else to do but watch an NBA game and listen to Tommy Heinsohn ramble on. I recall the excitement and the togetherness and the wonderful memories, understanding that these are rather different times.
And that I miss the good old times, mightily.