THE CHEAP SEATS WITH STEVE CAMERON: Just how does sports impact you?

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Where do sports fit in our lives?

They must be percolating someplace in your day-to-day existence, because you’re reading this opinion column in the sports section.

What I’m really asking now, quite seriously, is how sports impact the quality of your lives — assuming you’re not a serious athlete yourself.

That’s an entirely different subject.

We’re talking here about you as a fan, someone who cares about the fortunes of players who aren’t members of your immediate family.

So…

How much does it matter if your favorite team loses a critical game?

I ask this question with the knowledge that millions of people don’t give a tiny hoot about sports.

Thus the question is not directed to folks who think the whole idea of adults wearing a team name on their shirts while others watch and cheer is a waste of time.

No, I’m addressing you ladies and gentlemen who became almost physically ill when Gonzaga was upset by Texas Tech — or who are still upset that Pete Carroll called for a pass on the New England 1-yard line in the Super Bowl.

THE REASON this subject comes up today is that I recently addressed a group of young people.

Some of them asked: “Why do you write about sports?”

Their questions were a slight variation on a line I’ve heard from news colleagues for most of my life…

“You’re a decent writer and reporter. Don’t waste those skills on a bunch of silly games.”

My answer in both cases is simple.

There are lots of excellent journalists working to get you accurate news from your community, your region, state, country — hell, from the whole world.

And yeah, it IS hell sometimes.

What I’m doing, I hope, is doling out a little fresh air, providing you with some entertainment so you won’t be overwhelmed by shootings, mudslides, riots, gruesome wars, political upheavals and so forth.

Many serious reporters, men and women whose work I admire, refer jokingly to sports as the “toy department” of a newspaper.

I don’t mind that tag at all.

It’s probably correct.

People NEED the chance to take a breath, to relax away from the often-grim realities of everyday life to enjoy Washington State winning some football games, to ask where Gonzaga will find a point guard or to stick a few more Vandals flags in their front yard.

Want to be a “12th Man,” young lady?

Go for it.

I’m not even counting affiliation with teams outside the region, like Cubs fans who can now die in peace – just hopefully not too soon.

AS LONG as you don’t get drunk or physically offensive, spending some emotion on your favorite teams isn’t so bad.

As a soccer junkie, personally I’m hooked on Arsenal of the English Premier League – yes, we’re in a bit of a dip, but please remember Thierry Henry and the “Invincibles,” you naysayers.

I’m also still waiting desperately for the San Jose Sharks’ first Stanley Cup,

a vigil that may go on forever.

Does that leave me out of touch with the real world?

Nah.

Yet when someone I care about loses a heartbreaker, it hurts.

That includes every team and individual in our region because, after all, I’m writing for you.

I think all that should be pretty obvious, although a reader named John Arnold took me behind the woodshed for going overboard when the Zags were beaten in the NCAA tournament.

Here’s part of what he wrote…

“This whole idea of needing a ‘grieving process’ when your athletic team loses strikes me as so immature and unnecessary.

“Let’s face it: Nobody died as a result of the Zags’; defeat; nobody lost their life savings; nobody acquired an incurable disease.

“Those would be real tragedies. The Zags’; loss was not a tragedy. It was a GAME!”

ACTUALLY, I agree completely with John’s argument – except for one thing.

While losing a real shot at a national title stings, and stings a lot, it’s obviously not a true human tragedy.

If it were, you wouldn’t see it in the sports section.

However, fans are entitled to grieve for a while. Or maybe forever, while always understanding it’s not like death-in-the-family grief.

That difference is simply built into us.

It’s in a fan’s DNA.

Gonzaga loyalists will always feel slightly “robbed” by officiating that likely cost them a title against North Carolina two years ago, and Seahawks boosters may always rant about that call at the goal line.

Sitting around with fellow fans a decade after the fact and hashing this stuff over and over again may sound like life-wrecking frustration.

But John, my friend…

That’s part of the fun.

Sports fans use overly dramatic words and analogies — and so do sports columnists.

Almost all of us, though, understand that a jump shot at the buzzer isn’t life or death.

For those few who don’t…

Your prize is a two-week vacation in sunny, fun-filled Syria.

Steve Cameron’s “Cheap Seats” columns for The Press appear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Steve also contributes the “Zags Tracker” package on Gonzaga basketball once monthly during the off season.

Email: scameron@cdapress.com

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