Pick a day in Kansas City and you may hear 76,000 screaming fans in the loudest stadium in the world. You may witness almost 38,000 Royals fans begrudgingly (or happily) doing the wave at Kauffman Stadium. Or perhaps you’d see 18,000 fans blaring trumpets and singing at Sporting Park. The common theme in these scenarios (and all other sports) are the people. Even the most introverted person enjoys sports partially due to social interaction. Whether it’s in-person at games or watch parties or online through fantasy football or Twitter, it’s the people that make sports what they are. When you meet a person who is a fellow fan, you instantly have something you can talk about; a topic you can bond over.
In March, I began volunteering with Free Hot Soup KC, an organization that provides food, clothing, and other supplies to those living in tent cities around the Kansas City area. I say this not in hopes you will think I’m a good person. In fact, I was an awkward mess the first few times I volunteered. While I grew up in extreme poverty, I still had a house over my head and food to eat every night. Besides the fact that I’m a shy person, what was I supposed to say to those who live a much harder life than I do? I fumbled around making small-talk and felt a little bit guilty as I drove my car back to my apartment in Johnson County each Sunday.
One Sunday, however, it all kind of clicked. It was the day after Kansas’ loss to Oregon in the NCAA tournament. Someone who I had frequently spotted receiving soup on Sundays, but hadn’t talked to yet, wandered up to me. After eyeing my K-State shirt, he goes, “you watch the KU game yesterday?” Even though I try to ignore stereotypes, I was surprised he had seen it. “Yeah, but as a K-State fan, I’m not really surprised,” I smiled. As he began to discuss in detail about every play and call, I was embarrassed by my assumption that he hadn’t seen the game.
We talked for a while–about KU, Bill Self, and his nomination to the Hall of Fame. I’m not even a KU fan, but I was able to connect with him on a deeper level over sports. I realize how silly I was to be surprised. Homeless people are people, just like you and me. A lot of them don’t even consider themselves homeless–they just don’t live in a traditional home. They have access to TVs, news, and restaurants with the game on. Some went and watched the tournament, just like we did. They keep up on games in the same way we do. In fact, some ask me for the Royals score just as much as a cup of soup.
It’s easy to feel bogged down in all the negative of sports. As a woman, I often feel emotionally drained from issues like sexual and domestic violence. While these issues are important and demand attention, it’s important to remember the reason we began watching sports in the first place. They’re a reprieve from the hurt in the world. They’re a chance to eat bad food, drink too much alcohol, and yell as loudly as you can. They’re a chance to share a moment with thousands of fellow human beings. Sports allows you to connect with others, even if they’re different from you. Really, we’re more alike than it feels sometimes.
After all, we all want a cold beer and a Royals win.
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