This is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s March Madness, which means that 64 of the best college basketball teams are vying for the bragging rights of “National Champions.” The team I’m rooting for has had an amazing season and I’m hopeful it becomes THE season on April 2nd. As a fan, I have faithfully and eagerly shown my support by cheering them on at local bars, enthusiastically greeting every free throw and three-pointer with my friends. After a recent game, I found myself contemplating Why exactly do people love team sports? Why do I love team sports? My contemplation led me to the following insights:
They help us see basic goodness in others – At the core of sports fandom is the desire to connect with others. Rallying around team sports gives people an easy avenue for establishing a human connection. In Buddhism, human connection is an intrinsic part of life and the desire to feel and connect stems from our basic goodness.
They reinforce the power of teamwork – One of the things I love most about team sports is the strategy. I find it fascinating how players instinctively know where their teammate is going to be and follow that with amazing passing sequences. I grew up playing team sports and know the level of practice and trust that needs to be build to have those seemingly effortless moments on the court. You absolutely cannot win a game with showboaters. The power of teamwork is a key part of a winning strategy and it comes across strongly in these last rounds of play. Teamwork is a great example of the interconnectedness of our existence and how acknowledging that allows us to be truly present with ourselves and each other.
They inspire – If you’ve been watching this year’s tournament, you know that a Cinderella team rose up in the unlikeliest of places. Loyola Chicago made it’s first March Madness appearance since 1985 in this year’s tournament and has gone on to reach the Final Four (the last 4 out of 64 teams). Why does everyone love Loyola’s story? Why has their merchandise skyrocketed in sales? Because people want to believe in the good of this world. That if you work hard with an open heart, you will tune into the basic goodness of our world.
The subtleties of fandom were a fun and interesting contemplation. Paying attention to and acknowledging them have brought a deeper sense of mindfulness to how I engage with my fellow fans and my team’s competitors.