One of the beautiful things about sports is its ability to deliver captivating moments when we least expect it as people or fans. We watch because of the game, but oftentimes we remember because of what happens off the field.
Yesterday marked 14 years since Trinidad and Tobago defeated Bahrain 1-0 on a Dennis Lawrence winner to secure qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Finals in Germany. We all remember the euphoria and the scenes of joys and celebration that gripped the entire nation on that day, a Wednesday evening, November 16th, 2005. Every creed and race came together. Man, you and I know how much we could do with such scenes again. These moments show us that the transcendent values of love, compassion, and empathy still have a place in society and through sporting achievements.
In an interviewed with Leonson Lewis last month on the 1989 Strike Squad experience as well as with Stern John on the journey to Germany. And both men echoed similar sentiments on how much they were able to fulfil dreams, ambitions and contributions to society by their exploits as sporting personalities and to this day it inspires them to keep living with a purpose to serve and contribute to a better society and make a meaningful contribution to those around them.
Recall Ato Boldon’s races, Brian Lara’s innings, Dwight Yorke’s heroics at Old Trafford, Kieron Pollard’s first set of wins as Windies captain or simply Naparima’s College’s success at the local level, these moments are testimonies of what about sports that makes it so beautiful and captivating for the rest of us.
Against the backdrop of our “normal” sports culture, snapshots of compassion and empathy continue to capture our attention—and keep us fixated to see what could potentially happen next.
To the young Trinidad and Tobago Under-14 girls who had a chance to camp at the TTFA Home of Football before their first international match against Grenada, they will remember for the rest of their lives what that felt like and it hopefully will inspire them to want to persist to greater feats and earn their right to return to the venue for more international outings in the future.
Over the last century, sports have become televised and amassed legions of fans who use their favourite teams or athletes as part of their identities. As a result, the big events and occasions work up a frenzy of emotions and create moments known even to those who aren’t major followers.
Sports is not just about a race, cricket or football game. The heated games carry greater meaning and often represent struggles that encompass race, politics, gender, and health. And sometimes, a timeless sports moment occurs because of the incredible athleticism of just one player.
The occurrences of 2005/2006 Soca Warriors, the memory of Hasely Crawford’s run in ’76, Keshorn Walcott’s golden throw and the list can go on must continue to be used as a way to remind our generation and those to come of what we are capable of and why we must not accept or settle for mediocrity. We must know that we deserve better and once we earn that right in the process, we have to stay driven with our eyes on the prize. Stand up and be counted.
Daniel Wann, a social psychologist at Murray State University, has spent the last 30 years elaborating that identification with sports teams is, at the very least, a means to boost self-esteem—if not an opportunity to enhance overall mental health. Wann and his colleagues have carried out more than 20 studies in which diverse groups of sports fans, including high school students, college students, senior citizens, Australians, female fans, hockey fans, NASCAR fans, and others, were evaluated in regards to various measures by which psychologists gauge well-being—such as a sense of self-worth, frequency of positive emotions, feeling connected with others, belief in the trustworthiness of others, sense of vigour and energy, and so on. In virtually every single study, the degree of fan identification—that is, how devoted and enthusiastic a fan is—shows a positive statistical correlation with one or more of these factors.
Wann's most recent study, which is pending publication, found that highly identified sports fans have an above-average sense of meaning in life. This was one of those cases where A leads to B, but as a result of C, the mediating factor: “We found that identification wasn’t necessarily leading directly to meaning, but rather it was going through belonging,” Wann said. “So identification leads to belonging, which in turn leads to a sense of meaning.”
Wann believes there is one very simple reason fans are so deeply fulfilled, which has nothing to do with sports itself. It’s not about winning or losing, he suggests; it’s about the human bonds we form in the process. I agree with that and I hope you do as well.
Shaun Fuentes is the head of TTFA Media. He is a former FIFA Media Officer at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and also currently a CONCACAF Competitions Media Officer.