One of the reasons I think we love sports is because of the unscripted drama they provide. I still have trouble believing the 73-9 Warriors became the first ever team to blow a 3-1 NBA Finals lead to give Cleveland its first championship in 52 years. Any sappy sports movie could have told an underdog story like that, but unlike most entertainment, sports are real. Seeing Brazil lose 7-1 at home in the World Cup semis was like watching a train wreck, and knowing it wasn’t special effects. Sports provide unpredictable, actually real, reality entertainment. Any less popular sport can do that as well. Disney’s Cool Runnings is a testimony to that. How many people are bobsled fans? Take a picture if you ever find one. How much did a movie about a true bobsledding story make at the box office? $155 million. Every sport has its own Cool Runnings. Probably every sport has multiple Cool Runnings. I think we’re all choosing to miss out by not finding the great untold stories of every sport.
Not to be overshadowed by the glory of narratives is the fact that watching and playing sports is simply fun. Every two years billions of people tune in to watch the Olympics, a wonderful break from the annual cycle of the popular sports calendar. Though we would never care about them otherwise, everyone every four years pole vaulting, speed skating, fencing, cycling, and over 20 more sports gain an overnight following. Even more importantly, they get a chance to attract new athletes to those sports. While an athlete could spend their life training and never reach the premier league or NFL, there’s a much quicker path to the top of the alpine skiing world. Every two years the Olympics bring us the moments of heroism from The Miracle on Ice to Michael Phelps’ 23 gold medals. But they also remind us that sports exist outside of player contracts and trades. We may stay for the discussions, analytics, and legendary moments, but as fans we are originally drawn to sports for the fun of it.
Leaving the scope of the Olympics reveals even more fun to be had. eSports have a promising future and already draw in large audiences. Games that are only played regionally can be great as well, American football being one of them. Sepak takraw is tremendously popular in Southeast Asia and is basically volleyball but played with all body parts but the hands. Or on the purely obscure side you get sports that you can tell are entertaining just by the name. Sports like chessboxing, shin kicking, competitive eating, and cheese rolling all have sizable followings.
Hopefully I’ve inspired you to join WCBN every Friday to learn about a new, weird, sport that we think deserves more attention.