Sports: the universal unifier

Generation Y has been deemed the “Trophy Kids” on more than one occasion.  We are viewed as arrogant, entitled, and over-eager, and because we were coddled as children, we will never be able to understand what it means to fail or to work hard.

Yet this does not mean that we cannot, or do not, understand the concept of competition. In fact, according to a report from NAS Recruitment Communications, “being competitive with [ourselves] and others is in [our] nature.”

We compete with ourselves, our peers, our superiors, and even our successors, and we are more than eager to put our own fights aside in order to watch others compete at a higher level.

I’m talking sports. Professional, high intensity, yell-at-the-TV sports.

You may hate soccer, but you know all about the blown call in the USA vs. Slovenia game. You may not follow basketball, but you watched Rondo hit that three-pointer with 18 seconds left in Game Seven of the NBA finals – and those events were just in the past week.

Sports are a universal unifier. They are cross-generational, and in a time when generations are competing both in the work place and on the social stage, it is comforting to know that there is at least one thing we all have in common.

Everyone knows that moment, has felt that feeling… your team is down by two…time is running out, your star player has the ball… the shot… and… Depending on the way that sentence ends, we have felt elation and defeat together, regardless of age.

Members of Gen Y have been playing sports of one kind or another since we can remember. Organized sports were a staple of our childhood, involved not only in the development of our social skills and circles, but in our education and daily activities as well.

As we grew up, that competitive culture continued with the challenge to be the best. As we entered college, interest in our athletic pursuits moved past the motivational yelling of our over-eager parents, and onto the millions of fans (of all ages) who devote time, tears, and tirades to their favorite college football or basketball teams.

It’s really no question that sports play a huge role in the Gen Y psyche. However, I would say that its not sports that we love, it’s not the team or the players; it’s the fight. It’s that one-and-one competition that we crave and cherish, those beat-down, drag-out battles that carry us into double and triple overtimes.

The Celtics don’t get a second place trophy, and the Blackhawks don’t share the Stanley cup. There are winners, and there are losers, and that fact doesn’t elude us Millenials. In fact, it unites us with older (and younger) generations.

Sports fans are teams, they are cliques, they are families, and as such, in the immortal words of Aaron Sorkin, “We win together, we lose together. We celebrate and we mourn together. And defeats are softened and victories are sweeter because we did them together.”

So as ageism continues in the work place, and values conflict on the social stage, we can always turn to sports. Because there is nothing better than that bottom-of-the-ninth feeling, and there’s nothing more unifying than sharing it.

Photo by Sherri Elliot, PhotopediaPhotos

Jen Schmidt I currently live in Washington D.C., though i still call New England home. I have a master's degree in public health and policy and a background in political science and communications. I work for social justice in health care, and am eager to engage social media, public movements, and sound policy to create and sustain lasting change. Twitter: @Jschmidt19

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2 Responses to “Sports: the universal unifier”

  1. Angela Stefano

    There's something really special about sharing the heartbreak of a loss or the elation over a win with a giant group of people — especially when you're there in person. Everyone feeds off the energy of the others. But I think you could apply this concept to other shared experiences as well — concerts, for example. Experiencing your favorite band along with a zillion other screaming fans is pretty similar to celebrating in the streets when your team wins a championship.


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