Sport Boundaries

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September 16, 2011 by David Gillaspie

Originally published on


 One sports question comes up more often than it should.

You’ve been at gatherings where one room is the TV room and a game is on. Maybe it’s a family reunion, or a party, or a guy in the neighborhood’s house, and someone catches you watching the game.

“Oh, you’re one of them?” they say, and leave. They join others avoiding those who watch grown men run into each other, jump in the air, and fall down because that’s all they see.

There’s a chance anyone calling you ‘one of them’ has a favorite activity. Don’t waste a second finding out what it is so you can say, “Oh, you’re one of them?” They’d be proud to tell you, as proud as you for your favorites. 

Better to show the reason for sports, the function, the bond it creates between people instead of what separates them.

If it’s all about reaching out in good faith, can’t we agree that a Beaver fan in Eugene would love finding other Beaver fans? Wouldn’t Blazer fans from Gresham enjoy meeting Blazer fans from Medford during the Pendleton Round-Up?

People may not have much in common, but when it’s sports, it’s enough.


The sports wave floods everything, but sometimes you get a sneaker, a ripple effect.

One football season a great high school running back followed a great offensive line and rolled through Oregon like an ice-age flood. It happens once in a great while. Think Emmitt Smith and the Super Bowl Cowboy’s O-line. Think NFL all-time rushing leader.

The high school kid scored five touchdowns in a championship game. That, and the promise of future greatness, took him to the Air Force Academy Falcons.

Instead of games with five touchdowns, knee injuries and repairs took him out each year. The player stayed strong and re-habbed his knee, doing it over and over while his little brother climbed the sports ladder to become a Falcon just like him.

Instead of a disillusioned kid with dreams of grid iron Saturdays broken in his head, he became an inspiration.  Paul Weatheroy did what sport teaches: adapt and keep pushing.

You may never see five touchdowns in one game.

You may never see a perfect game in a World Series or anywhere.

You may regret you didn’t know sports’ value when you played, but you can learn.

Start by touching the car first after a hike, pretending you told the others it was a race you bet on. Collect their money.

Take the three point shooting challenge at the state fair and after air balling ten shots in a row, act like you did it on purpose.

Hit the driving range and tell yourself ‘put the ball right at the first marker, and every marker down range,’ before releasing your club down a line of golfers on your follow through.

Sports stories are the ones that stick.


The bond grows stronger with age.

If you didn’t know better you’d think the OSU Giant Killer team of the 60’s played against real giants; that Oregon’s Kamikaze Kids were pilots on a basketball court; that Beaver Baseball, Linfield Football, and University of Portland women’s soccer won national championships.

In recent years a bond of mythology has woven through Oregon Duck football. The list of fans talking about not missing a game for decades, home or away, grows; a special cheer to help the free roaming Ducks achieve organic balance has a copyright. Expect to hear how ‘those people’ believed the SEC trains with voodoo mythology and brought it to the Ducks.

What do you do besides nod and smile?

Start your own mythology.

Pick a team, high school, middle school, or college, and cheer them on. Stick with them through their wins and losses. Talk them up.

It’s a new season and not too late to build a bond with a local team. This is where sports therapy plays a part. They need you as much as you need them, but neither knows how much.

Your team reinforces good lessons. Athletes learn not to quit. They learn to respect their game and still not quit. You learn the same qualities with each game.

The next time someone asks, “Are you one of them, a sports fan,” be ready. They’re having trouble with the words, but they are asking about your team.

Help ‘em out.


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