Sports is escapism.
We become fans of a team to forget about the day to day grind that is most of our lives. We live and die with the athletes. We over analyze their every move. We call for coaches jobs and question players ability and desire. As sports fans, we’re basically Simon Cowell while the athletes’ are American Idol — wait it’s now X-Factor — contestants.
For one reason or another, fans feelings can turn on a dime once an athlete struggles to drop them. It’s as if we feel obligated or entitled to cheer and jeer at the most passionate of levels.
Most of the time it is that passion that makes sports great. Sometimes though, it’s what makes us overlook the reality about all of it. The reality that these are just human beings, like you and me, trying to do a job under immense pressure.
I am just as guilty as any other fan. I’ve questioned athletes and made assumptions about coaches more times than ESPN has mentioned Jeremy Lin’s name this week. (Mentioning him helps SEO right?)
On Thursday night I received a reminder of the human side of sports.
I was lucky enough to attend the premiere of the documentary ‘Duke 91 & 92 Back to Back’ that Suns forward Grant Hill helped produce at the Paramount Pictures lot in Los Angeles. (Don’t worry, this isn’t just an excuse for a giant humble brag.) It wasn’t the documentary that made the evening special — although it was brilliantly done. It was the fact that, despite being in one of the biggest cities in the world, Hill’s teammates spent their night supporting him.
Most of Hill’s teammates along with head coach Alvin Gentry and even North Carolina alum and Suns broadcaster Scott Williams piled into two SUVs and drove 20 minutes out of their way for the event. Did they have to? No, it wasn’t required. They just did it to support a fellow team member. It speaks volumes to the character and characters on the team’s roster.
Between waiting in the hotel lobby for our ride, to riding in the car with them and interacting with them at the premiere, I got a chance to see a side of these guys that most people never will. I got a chance to see them interact without microphones in their face, outside of a uniform and in a relaxed environment.
You know what I learned? They’re just like you and me (with a few more zeros on their paycheck).
Guys like Steve Nash, Jared Dudley, Channing Frye, Michael Redd and Ronnie Price spent their time joking around, talking about the hottest sports topics and reminiscing about memories from the past. In other words, exactly what everyone talks about around friends.
Sure, it’s not breaking news, but it’s worth noting. In an industry where these guys are worshipped, revered and picked apart 24 hours a day, seven days a week on multiple platforms, they’re still just human. Luckily for Suns fans, they’ve rooting for some of the best human beings in professional sports.
Suns basketball may be an escape from reality, but the reality is, these are just guys trying to do a job to the best of their ability.