The Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins faced off in Super Bowl VII at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 14, 1973. My family lived in Long Beach, California at the time and my dad, older brother and some of our neighbors gathered around the TV watching with great interest and excitement. My mother was not so interested and decided to retire to her bedroom to watch something else. I joined her because, like many 5-year-olds, I had no interest in football. My mom expressed gratitude that she had a partner in her disinterest in sports. That partnership didn’t last.
Two years later, I watched with great interest as Terry Bradshaw led the Pittsburgh Steelers to victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl IX. My interest in football expanded to include baseball and basketball over the years, and by the time I hit my teens I was a bona fide sports nut.
The National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association. It didn’t matter. I loved them all and consumed large quantities of these organizations’ products. With the creation of the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN), my already insatiable appetite for sports became even more-so.
If there was a sporting event that interested me (and most of them did), I found a way to watch or listen to it.
NBA Finals? I’d use the TV at church to sneak peeks at the game. World Series? Super Bowl? I’d find a way.
As a newlywed, I once skipped my congregation’s Sunday services and attended our building’s sister congregation’s meetings just so I could be at home to watch the NBA Finals.
While attending a birthing class with my wife in anticipation of the arrival of our first child, I took a transistor radio with me and paid more attention to the NBA Finals on the radio than I did to the class.
Sports meant a lot to me as a child and young adult. Way too much, I realize now.
As a young father in the 1990s, words spoken by a church leader in 1988 impacted me greatly. He said, and I paraphrase, that when we put what should matter most first in our lives, everything else will fall into its proper place or out of our lives altogether. These words caused me to evaluate the role sports was playing—and had been playing—in my life.
By that time, my career had grown to include sports as I worked for an NBA team, was a collegiate sports information officer, and covered sports for several newspapers. My career and love of sports had become the main focuses of my life. How could I ever change that? I won’t go into the details of how it happened, but it happened.
Over the years, I’ve been able to put sports into their proper places. A career change (several, actually), refocusing, and a willingness to change has helped me to see sports from a new perspective. Though I wanted to change, I also fought the change. I didn’t watch as much as I used to, but still yearned to watch, at first, at least.
Gradually, not only did my sports-watching and sports-following habits change, but so did my attitude towards sports. The urge to tune in began to lessen to where now, I can’t even remember the last time I watched a sporting event in its entirety. When I do tune in, I don’t watch for very long as an awareness settles in that there are other things I could be doing that have meaningful significance.
Am I saying that it’s bad to watch sports? No. What I am saying is that it’s possible to put them into perspective and into their proper places. The formula? Put the things of lasting significance at the top of your to-do list. It might come as a surprise that what you’re clinging to really doesn’t matter in the big picture.