As a sports writer and enthusiast, I sometimes lose track of the big picture.
At times, I find myself focusing too much on who wins and who loses. I overanalyze statistics. I attempt to draw facts and trends from figures and take a far too analytical approach.
Fantasy sports have helped brainwash me into believing numbers mean more than anything and value is a direct correlation of production.
I have a tendency withdraw into a results-based mentality, and, honestly, most of the time, I don’t mind it.
One of the goals of sports is to consistently deliver at a high level both individually and collectively. Athletes strive to pull the best out of themselves, spending countless hours sculpting their bodies through diet and exercise. They work tirelessly honing their skills with practice and study sessions to break down the mechanics of movements.
In the end, most will agree, the stats they produce, whether measured in points, times or pounds define them as athlete and rightfully so – most of the time.
In my opinion, professional athletes deserve to be viewed as commodities. They are competing at the highest level and many are paid handsomely to do so. They have sponsors, endorsements and countless tools at their disposal to continually improve at their craft.
To a certain degree, I feel the same way about college athletes. If they are receiving a scholarship, they have a financial incentive to perform and provide some sort of return on the investment, even if it is intangible.
It is said all the time: What have you done for me lately? It becomes almost a subconscious way of thought that hits me hardest during the summer months.
But then high school sports start kicking into gear, and, suddenly, the fog lifts. Finally, a break from the monotony of viewing sports as purely performance based.
Don’t get me wrong, every high school coach wants to win and every player has the intention of delivering for his or her team, but it is done so with a breath of fresh air.
With volleyball and tennis seasons already under way and practices for football and cross country taking place, I’ve been interacting with numerous coaches and players as they prepare for the upcoming year. Not a single person has mentioned stats.
High school athletics are special because not only do they focus on the fundamentals of sports, but they value and instill quality principles in life.
I’ve heard coaches speak about compassion and players preach about redemption. The words “family” and “love” have been used during interviews. Integrity, teamwork and sacrifice are stressed far more than points per game or overall records.
There is a special characteristic woven within sports at the high school level and below that is unmatched after graduation. Sports lose a little bit of innocence at that point, and the focus shifts to production.
Luckily, I get to experience a purer version.
Sure, I’ll still consider former Pro Bowlers worthless when their numbers take a drastic dip this season, and I’ll still cuss at the television set if my favorite team starts riding a losing streak.
But at least I can always slip away to a prettier place, where statistics are only a byproduct.
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org