As I am writing this, the city of St. Louis is galvanized around Blues hockey. In case you hadn’t heard, we are in the Stanley Cup for the first time in 49 years. We are a loyal and energetic sports town.
And, I have a confession to make. I am not that into the Blues. Or the Cardinals. And it’s my mom’s fault.
She is reading this right now and having apoplexy – “What in the world are you saying?!? We had season tickets to Cardinals football! We listened to Cardinals baseball all summer on KMOX when you were growing up! I adore my players and feel connected to their personal stories!” It’s true. My mom is a St. Louis sports maniac, but she put me in ballet lessons at age 3 and I loved ballet and not team sports.
I do appreciate athleticism. I can very much cheer for a feat of agility or skill or stamina. “Go, Athlete!” I think. When attending pro sports events, I mostly enjoy chatting with whomever I am with. I’ve been known to think in the third inning of a baseball game, “Now, who are we playing again?”
Obviously, I have a block or some kind of disease. And, in St. Louis, it feels practically shameful to admit.
But in my mid-30s, I did have a team sports breakthrough. This was a time in my life when I worked as a home hospice social worker, going into people’s homes and nursing homes, providing emotional support and services for people who were dying and their families. Most people I visited were elderly, and all were very physically compromised.
One thing I noticed again and again were the medicinal and healing effects of Cardinals baseball and other St. Louis sports on my patients. It’s great: being part of the team community, being energized by the drama of a close game, celebrating with the city and being part of a larger community of people who are in it together.
It made my heart full to witness the way someone who was elderly and isolated could brighten and feel part of something bigger and important and actually enjoy life even for a brief while, when watching or talking about their favorite team. I finally understood the value of a team community. To be included with people who are invested in not just the win, but the history of and relationship with the team, the players – and not just one game, but the long haul of games. Our teams do something good for us and bring us together in a common purpose.
I’m still not that into watching sports. And, when I do, I tend to get overly excited about whomever is playing offense at the moment. So you may not want to watch a game with me. But I can say that I deeply appreciate all the good, the happiness, and even joy that our hometown teams bring to us. I don’t have to fake that. I’m with you, St. Louis – genuinely so – in our collective sentiment: “Go Blues!”