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Prister: Look at what we can do by the power of sports (Mar. 2)

Eric Prister | Thursday, March 1, 2012

The crack of a bat. The snap of a basketball hitting nothing but net. The pop of two players colliding in football. These are sounds we associate with sports, sounds which bring about a nostalgia of games we’ve been to, experiences we’ve had.

But we don’t follow sports just for these simple pleasures. We follow, we watch so we can see something we’ve never seen before. We watch to see greatness.

We watch to see the most dominant hitter of all time stand at home plate, point into the outfield bleachers and then hit a home run to that spot. We watch to see a black man walk onto the field for a Major League Baseball team for the first time and begin a career that would take him to the Hall of Fame.

We follow sports so we can hear “the shot heard round the world,” see “the greatest game every played,” and stand in awe watching the band run onto the field during “the play.”

We watch to see players transcend sport itself, knocking out Sonny Liston and declaring oneself “the greatest,” leaving a hand up after hitting a shot to win one’s sixth championship or pumping a fist after sinking a putt on the 18th at Augusta.

We watch to see barriers broken as someone scores 100 points, runs a sub-four-minute mile or finishes the third leg of the Triple Crown with a 31-length lead.

We even watch to see tragedy, as the ball rolls between someone’s legs, is knocked out of midair by a fan who will forever live in infamy or the all-time hits leader is banned from baseball.

Sports lift us up to a place higher than we could on our own. We don’t just watch — we become a part of the glory and the defeat of the athletes we follow. When they succeed, we succeed with them, and when they fail, we feel the pain too.

We celebrate with the “Iron Man” when he starts his 2,131st straight game, cheer alongside “Big Mac” when No. 62 clears the fence and praise “the Great One” as he becomes hockey’s all-time scoring leader.

We feel the pain of calling a timeout when you have none left, of having your ear bitten off during a fight and of seeing one of the best ever run away, not from opponents but from the police in the back of a Ford Bronco.

And we definitely celebrate with the underdogs, with the Davids who overcome the Goliaths, because we do believe in miracles.

While watching a man ascend the slopes of Mt. Everest, Dan Rydell from the television show “Sports Night” sums up the feelings of every sports fan when watching greatness.

“Look at what we can do.”

We can do great things, unimaginable things, and these abilities are in no way better expressed than through sports. And in sports, even non-athletes can be a part of the “we.”

The roar of the crowd when a team runs onto the field to start a game, the explosion of sound when a player hits a last-second 3-pointer and the screams of excitement that arise when a pitcher retires his 27th batter in a row are what really make sports great.

Look at what we can do.