It has been a difficult couple of months since the COVID19 pandemic hit, without any kind of sport being played because it was one of the biggest sources of entertainment for me. I follow the NBA, F1, EPL, Cricket and Tennis very closely. Watching these sports to geeking out on post-match analytics and arguing about it over lunch took up a lot of my day.
The first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions the word sports to me is ‘Passion, Competition, Discipline, Athletes, Physicality, Fitness, Training, etc.’ to name a few. The next thing that probably comes to mind is an athlete, a sport or an entire sporting event.
Although every country and every person has their own background, sports has become a universal culture that is represented in every corner of the world, becoming its own platform that unites people and their cultures in many different forms.
Take The Indian Premier League for example. A joy for every cricket fan and one that ensures every other human being in India is sitting in front of the television sets every evening for 45 days straight. Or imagine The NFL or The NBA or European Football. An event stretched over 36-40 weeks that entertains you everyday or weekend and usually leads to a big withdrawal and boredom over the summer break (Transfer rumours are super exciting though!).
It was only when it was taken away from me, that I realised how far reaching impact it had on a global scale through many multiple sectors. So let’s break down sports into various categories and how they impact our lives:
1. The Economic Impact of Sports
Sports represent a billion-dollar business—that’s no secret. But what you might not realize is the immensely positive impact sports have on local economies, mainly through tourism dollars.
According to the data provided by BCCI, the Indian Premier League (IPL) contributed Rs 11.5 billion ($182 million) to India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015.
2. Job Creation
Part of the economic impact involves jobs. According to Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., as of 2013, the sports industry in America produced 456,000 jobs. These jobs include far more than just the athletes; other occupations involved with spectator sports such as coaches, referees and agents. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the many stadium vendors and their employees, front-office personnel, etc.
Currently, the Sardar Patel Stadium in Gujarat is undergoing redevelopment and with a capacity to host 110,000 fans, it is set to become the largest sporting arena in the world, overtaking Melbourne Cricket Ground. Development is not just restricted to the stadium, with management planning to integrate the metro rail and Sabarmati Riverfront Road in its schema. The new stadium is expected to attract more tourists to the area, bringing in contribution from indirect spends.
3. National Unity
Sports provide a platform for people to come together and support their country. International events like the Olympics and the World Cup serve as a point around which to rally and show national pride and unity.
During the 2011 Cricket World Cup, the ratings agencies TAM and aMap respectively recorded that 135 million people in India watched the final live. The game was watched by 13.6% of Indian TV-equipped households on average, with a peak of 21.44% at the end of the game.
I still remember the goosebumps when the entire stadium was singing The Indian National Song and how the entire city came on the streets, shouting at the top of our lungs to celebrate that victory. Nobody cared about castes or communities. All we jeered about was that ‘India won the World Cup’.
4. Role Models, Motivators and Inspirers
Ask young children who their role models are, and I bet a good amount of them would name an athlete.
Take an athlete like Abhinav Bindra who holds India’s only Individual Olympic Gold Medal or Virat Kohli, who now captains a dominant Indian side in cricket or Sania Mirza, a former world no.1 and 6 time grand slam winner. These athletes inspire millions of kids and athletes to take up sports and make the nation proud.
5. Community Relationships
Most teams and leagues have community-relations departments or charitable arms. This means that professional athletes often spend time performing service in their communities.
Take an example of an IPL franchise. Since 2010, Mumbai Indians has been supporting ESA – Education and Sports for All. Through this initiative, Reliance Foundation has impacted the lives of over 18 million children. The initiative provides quality education and sporting opportunities to children across India.
I know this sounds hokey, but one of the most positive things about sports is the pure, unadulterated joy that can result—for the players, coaches, fans and everyone involved. Sports has the capacity to move people. It gets people to believe and bring about a feeling of ownership and inclusivity.
Sports are emotional, and they can incite great passion. Sometimes it’s joyful, and other times it’s not. But anytime something can bring out that range of extreme, raw emotion in people, it’s a good thing. I remember having tears in my eyes after Indian won that World Cup, mainly because I was relieved and I could finally let go off that anxiety and we achieved the best possible result. But, it’s not just upto a commoner like me.
Lebron James collapsed and cried after the 2016 NBA Finals when he finally brought a major sporting title to the city of Cleveland after over 5 decades. As did Michael Jordan after winning his first championship with the Chicago Bulls.
When a team wins, a city or a nation wins, millions of people win and nobody can take away that raw emotion from you.
Many professional athletes have foundations. There are hundreds, in fact, with causes ranging from promoting healthy lifestyles to diabetes awareness.
Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation, in existence since 1996, helps steer young people toward a healthy way of life. During his final season in 2014, many teams donated money to Jeter’s foundation to help honor him. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the foundation has raised over $19 million to date.
LeBron James grew up in Akron, Ohio and became a sports icon. James has done numerous projects to help disadvantaged children. With none viewed higher than the creation of a public school in his hometown.
While some might classify it as more entertainment than sport, there’s no denying the physical conditioning and functional strength of WWE wrestlers, and there’s absolutely zero questioning John Cena’s rank as one of the most charitable athletes in the world. Cena is not only the most-requested athlete in the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he’s blown everyone else out of the water, granting more than 500 wishes to date.
8. Iconic Moments
I don’t find the need to say anything more about these memorable moments in sports, except just add a few pictures that any fan would probably never forget.