They make for pretty cool commercials, but
if you think about them for a minute, those ESPN “Without
Sports” ads bring up a pretty scary thought: What if there
really were no sports? OK, it wouldn’t be the worst thing
that could happen (not quite, anyway), but things would be
different. Very different. Some of us wouldn’t even have been
lured to attend Michigan, and even if we were, college would be an
Without sports, there’d be no football Saturdays, no
walking to the stadium with thousands of other students, and no
rushing the field. There would be no weekend road trips, no reason
at all to trek to Iowa City or Big Rapids or Bowling Green. We
would never walk into Crisler Arena for the first time or get
chills when we watch, for the last time as students, the Michigan
Marching Band take the field in the Big House.
Without sports, there’d be no reason to skip class on the
third Thursday afternoon in March, and we would never start writing
a term paper at 1 a.m. because a game went into double
Without sports, we wouldn’t know what it was like to never
get tired of “One Shining Moment,” or watch
“Hoosiers” for the 100th time and then not be able to
wait for the next time. We wouldn’t watch a tape of ’98
Rose Bowl years later and still celebrate when the clock runs
Without sports, we couldn’t watch Jeff Tambellini utterly
confuse a goalie, Steve Breaston turn a tackler into a fool with
one sick move or Brent Petway sky for an alley-oop. There would be
no grinders or sixth men or walk-ons reminding us what it’s
all about. Without sports, we could never get away with calling a
guy Hunnie or Cookie or Dewie.
Without sports, there would be no trash talk, no proclaiming our
loyalty on a T-shirt, no block “M,” no bragging rights,
no rubbing it in, no sharing the agony. Without sports, we
wouldn’t get our best friend to text message us updates every
10 minutes while we’re stuck at a family dinner.
Without sports, there would be no need to guard the
“M” on the Diag, and the color green wouldn’t
make us cringe a little bit.
Without sports, we’d never listen to Frank Beckman and Jim
Brandstatter on the car radio, counting on them to be our eyes.
We’d never hear Keith Jackson’s “Whoa
Nellie” or hear televisions, all turned to the same channel,
echoing down the dorm hall. We’d never hear the swish of a
perfect shot hitting the twine or the clang of a puck hitting the
post or the collective groan of a crowd or 110,000 people singing
“The Victors” in one voice.
Without sports, how would we pour sweat or push ourselves to the
limit or blow off steam or knock down a game-winner and feel, just
for a moment, like we’re not all that different from the
players in maize and blue?
Without sports, we’d have a lot fewer stitches and black
eyes, go through a lot fewer ice packs and Ace wraps. Without
sports, how would we be tough?
Without sports, we wouldn’t pull the glove out of the
closet and play catch on the first warm day of spring or play touch
football in the snow and forget it is cold out or shoot hoops in
the park and not even realize it’s raining.
Without sports, our hearts would pound a little less, and we
wouldn’t sit on the edges of our seats quite so often. We
wouldn’t be devastated as often. But, also, we wouldn’t
have a reason to wait until next year. We wouldn’t be 1,000
miles from home, see a maize-and-blue flag, and feel like we
Without sports, who would teach us about underdogs and hustle
points and never, ever giving up? How would we learn to hold our
heads high in defeat and have class in victory? There’d be a
little less inspiration, fewer reminders of courage and persistence
and humanity. Without sports, we would never know about unity or
Of course, not everything would change. Without sports, we would
probably still find some reason to hate Columbus.