Sports and Community

By: Ryan Bigg

To the shock of no one that knows a little about me, I’m going to start by talking about sports. Sports are one of my favorite things to discuss. It’s an easy way to small talk with a stranger and a good way to make a new friend. It is also a fast way for me to get either overly excited or extremely angry. It is one of the things I care the most about and I often get asked why that is.  Questions like “Why do you care so much about sports?” or “Don’t you realize it’s just a game?” These questions are important because it makes me remember that there are more important things to care about, but it also makes me think about why sports matter to me.

When I was younger, playing sports was the way I connected with people. It was how I expressed myself, how I realized my self-worth, and how I gained confidence I didn’t have before. Playing sports is also how I discovered the concept of community and the important role community plays in one’s life. I can name the entire roster of my first organized team when I was six. I can also tell you what each of the 80 people on the last team that I was on is currently doing. This is because I was invested and cared deeply about the community that sports created for me. The team was the only thing I really cared about in high school. My identity in high school was based off of the sports community. When that part of my life ended, my care for sports transitioned more to watching sports and being a fan because I felt like sports was the only way I was going to find the sense of community I was looking for and still longed for. A large portion of my life revolves around watching sports, talking about sports, or playing sports for recreation/bonding. This is because I had been searching for ways to bond and commune with people in ways that I knew worked and that I was comfortable with.

So when we started talking about community in this context here at the Road, I was skeptical at first. I was excited to see how it was going to look, but in the back of my mind I thought that it was just going to reinforce the idea for me that sports was the answer. Instead, the opposite is occurred. I am realizing how intentional community, where there is a root in love and compassion for others, is much richer than anything that sports can create. The capacity and adaptability of a community rooted in these things creates the ability to go into the world and help people with a solid foundation to stand on. I think I came to this realization of our community growing with love and compassion when we were on the retreat this past weekend. I probably subconsciously knew about this before, but it hit me when we threw one of the other fellows a surprise birthday gathering the first night of the retreat that we had this past weekend. The evening meeting that night was much quieter than usual and there was not much socializing after because of our exhaustion from the day’s travels and events; everyone and something that was specifically brought up recognized this.  Even though this was the case, the group stayed up past 1 a.m.  to wish the fellow a Happy Birthday. This event lasted an hour longer than it was supposed to because of a hiccup in the plan, which further proved the growth that was happening for us as a community. When I saw the plan finally come together at the end, I came to the realization that this is what intentional community looks like and it was an example of what I was looking for. It proved to me that I don’t need sports to fulfill my wanting for community. It also proved that it can be found in unexpected places and ways. This experience is already such a blessing because of this one moment, but that barely begins to unpack the potential meaning that this experience has for me and for our group as a whole, that is something I am looking forward to.