I am and have always been a sports fan. I closely follow the Bulls, Bears, White Sox, and still, occasionally, the Black Hawks. My grandchildren tease me that if I drank beer with all the sports I watch, I could be a “frat boy!” (Apologies to frat boys)
Like so many, I was shocked to see the Buffalo Bills football player Damar Hamlin suffer cardiac arrest on the field. Unfortunately, both football and hockey are contact sports and players often get injured. We have all seen injured players carted off the field (or the ice) and soon after, the game continues. By contrast, and appropriately so, the Buffalo Bills game was stopped. Players from both teams were noticeably shaken as they formed a circle of privacy and prayer around Damar. People of all stripes, races, and ages from around the country, who root for different teams and/or who do not follow sports at all, were impacted by this horrific event. Folks rallied in kindness and support for Damar’s well-being, as he continues to recover.
In football and hockey, rough-and-tough physicality is part and parcel of the game. For example, the practice of boarding in hockey was meant to prevent opponents from moving forward, but it has turned into viciously crushing opponents. The hockey stick, meant to guide the puck across the ice, has become a lethal weapon. In football, tackling was never meant to grind the opponent into the ground or butt him in the head with the helmet. As these acts of brutality in hockey and football have increased, my interest in following these sports has waned. Would that there be even more helpful rules, safeguards, and better protective gear employed.
Two other sports in which I have no interest are wrestling and boxing. Many years ago, my husband had an interest in amateur boxing, especially as a way to channel teenage restlessness. He convinced the board of the Better Boys Foundation and his friend, Walter Payton, to purchase satin robes and shorts for 50 older, West Side, at-risk teenagers. My husband urged me to join him at a boxing match where I saw boxers enter the arena to the cheers and taunts of the crowd. The noisy din turned into uproarious laughter when one of the contenders stepped into the ring. He removed his satin robe and began ceremoniously strutting around the ring. The only problem was he had forgotten to put his boxing shorts on over his jockstrap! Dare I say I was not impressed by my “exposure” to the sport of boxing?!
Basketball has always been my favored sport. My love of basketball was enhanced when I landed what I call a “dream job” while attending the University of Illinois in Urbana. I was hired to tutor some of the basketball players. They were all bright young men, but the team practiced to such an extent that both players and coaching staff were concerned their academic grades would suffer. If they didn’t get a passing grade in their classes they would be ineligible to play. My job was to tutor them, and keep them above passing grade. To this day, I enjoy watching basketball, because it was through those young men that I learned various plays and the intricate strategies that go into the game.
A few years ago, I was at a bar at O’Hare Airport waiting for my delayed plane to arrive. While sipping my soda, I watched the Bears vs. Packers football game that was on the TV. The folks at the bar were deeply engaged, as I was, especially since the Bears were ahead. Then, abruptly the score changed as a result of a Green Bay player intercepting an errant Bears’ pass. Like everyone at the bar, I felt dejected. I blurted out, “Somehow or other, Green Bay always seems to find a way to beat the Bears.” With that, the young man seated at the bar next to me said, with a look of utter dismay, “I didn’t know that old ladies took an interest in sports.” I did not respond to his ignorant comment.
Although I rarely have an opportunity to attend basketball games anymore, my interest in our local college teams and the Chicago Bulls and White Sox continues. I continue to have an appreciation for the dedication, hard work, and athleticism of those who participate. I liken their agility to that of a highly trained ballet dancer.
Yes, Mr. “bar-mate” at O’Hare Airport, this old lady, and countless others, are knowledgeable and interested in sports!
Harriet Hausman, 98 years young, writes a regular column about her hometown, River Forest, and the world.