I remember thinking while in college that I would get excited for an underwater basket weaving team if they were representing my Kansas Jayhawks. And there’s truth to that! I love my school. I’m a 2nd generation Jayhawk. But why I enjoy college athletics goes deeper than that.
Much has been made about the large number of “one-and-done” players on the Kentucky basketball team this year. I’m not trying to discount what they accomplished. They were an absolutely exceptional basketball team. But I almost feel bad for their fans. (Almost. Any group of people who will burn cars and couches in celebration is mentally unstable at best.) So I almost feel bad for them.
They got to cheer for an exceptional team.
But they missed out on the beauty of story.
Watching Kansas’ Thomas Robinson deal with awful losses in his family changed the way I root for him. But even in the simple stories. Watching players work hard in practice, not seeing much game time, eventually work their way into significant roles. Hearing the story about the player who almost quit or transferred, but chose to stick it out. Just getting to know more about the players and see a bit of their personalities changes the way you watch the games and get behind a team.
You go from simply cheering for your team to rooting for actual people.
And that is a beautiful thing.
Yes, Kansas has had players leave school early. And I don’t blame them. Most people go to college so they can get a better job. Sometimes that job shows up before graduation. But for me, as a fan of college athletics, I hate the loss of the story. All the conference realignment stuff was very similar. I understand changes happen, but something about watching a bunch of rich old men sacrifice story for more money seemed so par for the course in our society.
Story remind us that we’re all human with hopes, dreams, joys and struggles.
Story gives us hope that, though we may be down now, we can get back up again.
That is why I love college athletics.