The Unseen Impact of Sports

One of my first memories I have as a child is watching my brothers play basketball for their school team. Whether it was the players on the court or the parents in the crowd, all I remember is how everyone was always so excited. Everyone revolved their days around these games. People would volunteer to help out in the snack stand or to work the clock. It felt as if parents were not worried about the forty-hour work week they were about to face and the players were not worried about the homework due Monday morning. Instead, everyone was focused on one thing: basketball. This joy and excitement that the game brought to the crowd and the players ultimately led to my decision to take up after my brothers and learn the game of basketball. Looking back on it, some of my fondest memories are playing basketball and establishing great relationships through the game. These effects do not just apply to basketball, but to sports in general. That is why sports have and always will have one of the most influential and lasting impacts on society. 

What strikes me the most about sports is how it has the ability to bring together an entire community. Perhaps the greatest example of that is the 2009 New Orleans Saints. In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the city of New Orleans, resulting in catastrophic damage. The hurricane destroyed not only the homes and buildings of the city, but also its spirit. Following Hurricane Katrina, the Saints played three of their home games away from their home stadium. They proceeded to go a disappointing 3-13. However, the following year sparked a new hope when the Saints signed Sean Payton as their head coach and Drew Brees as their quarterback. In their first year together and back in the beloved Superdome, Payton and Brees led the Saints to an impressive 10-6 record, including a playoff win. One thing was clear: the Saints had a bright future ahead. Despite the following two years being somewhat disappointing, the Saints put it all together in 2009 as they rallied behind their city and the rest of America to win Super Bowl XLIV.  

Although the goal of a sport is to conquer your opponent, sports in general has the unique ability to conquer many opponents such as political or social differences, and sometimes even disease. In June of 1992, legendary North Carolina State basketball coach and ESPN commentator Jim Valvano was diagnosed with metastatic adenocarcinoma, a type of glandular cancer. Nearly a year later, Jim Valvano and ESPN founded the V Foundation for Cancer Research. Since then, the V Foundation has awarded over $290 million dollars in cancer research grants nationwide. The V Foundation’s impact on the cancer research world is so prevalent that when people see the clip of Jim Valvano sprinting aimlessly onto the court just seconds after North Carolina State’s shocking upset victory over the top-ranked University of Houston in the 1983 National Championship, they do not think about the magical run he led his school on. Instead, people reflect on Jim Valvano, his desire to conquer, and his ability to recognize and utilize the influence of sports to create a lasting impact on the millions of people dealing with cancer. That is an impact that only sports can cement. 

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