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By Jesse Utz 

What if we treated life like we do sports?

Jess Shut Up


Sports has been a major part of my life as long as I can remember. My first memory of sports is playing Little League Baseball. My first team was Birds’ Auto Body. Back then, instead of a tee, your coach pitched underhand to you.

Bob Riley was our coach then, and we had an undefeated season. I remember Rob Williams, Shawn Garvin, John Kelly, and Willie Moore being on the team. The hook was set and I played many more years of baseball after that. Basketball, football, volleyball and softball were all added in on occasions. Sports were set as a part of my life.

In football, the Kansas City Chiefs have been my favorite from way back. I can’t remember why they are my favorite team. I might have just seen them on TV once and liked the uniform or saw them beat someone. I started rooting for them and, as all fanatic fans do, you start getting to know the players on your team.

Back then, that meant football and baseball cards. We watched the games and read the back of our cards. I still have boxes and boxes in the basement and have the special ones in plastic sheets in a notebook.

Derrick Thomas was my favorite player growing up and well into my adulthood. When he died in a car crash in his prime, it crushed me. I never met the man face to face but it hurt like a family member had been stolen away from me. I had watched him sack Dave Krieg of the Seahawks seven times in one game, I had watched him lose the AFC Championship two years in a row, I watched him honor his dad, a veteran, at a game he dedicated to him. I felt like he was a friend of the family.

Sounds kind of silly to be talking about someone you never really met, just watched every Sunday on the TV, like he lived next door. But I think that is how a lot of us then felt about our sports heroes. Today I can’t think of any player I feel the same about, and I doubt I ever will.

As I got older, my sports awareness expanded a lot when I met and fell in love with Karrie. Her family was deeply embedded in the Purple and Gold of UW and I quickly joined in. Football games at Husky Stadium are an experience that any sports fan would love. The atmosphere is energetic and addicting. It gives you a whole new reason to cheer for your team. Because you become part of the team. Tailgating and the people around you create a brotherhood of fellow fans that hang their heart on every play with you. Once again a family scenario plays out.

Our son is now getting ready to wrap up his high school career, just as his sister did a few years ago. We have followed him through little guy wrestling, middle school sports, football and wrestling at Lake Roosevelt and now his senior year at ACH. I can see those same qualities of family growing in him as he roots for his teammates and they root for him.

It’s not just teammates either. Other wrestlers from other teams have become followers, and as we cheer for them, they cheer for us. It’s one big family reunion when we all gather together at the Tacoma Dome for state wrestling. And it is like that for all sports, I am guessing.

Sports are a big deal for our children and for us. There is the completion, team work, learning to lose, and learning to win. There is sportsmanship, and heartbreak. There are the accomplishments of reaching your goal, and there are even the setbacks of an injury or loss. It teaches us to go beyond ourselves, to adapt and overcome the obstacle in front of you.

Coaches, officials, fans and players are all parts of this big learning environment that we place ourselves in and try to become better than we were when we started. Once the seed is planted it never goes away. We may get to old or unable to participate the way we once did. Or we may lose a hero or two along the way, but we continue to cheer and root for the ones that are going out and giving 100 percent of themselves. All of a sudden, I am not sure I am talking about sports anymore. Maybe we should apply more of this to our everyday lives, too. I’m just saying.

Let’s say we cheered on the paper boy, (do we even have those anymore?) like we cheered on our team. Or we celebrated our neighbor’s new job like we celebrated a last minute shot for a win. Or we dropped all to go to the nursing home like we drop everything to watch the Super Bowl (commercials). We could get involved with council meetings or volunteer groups and go all out. We support each other like we support our teams. What would that look like?

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