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COLUMN: We all bow down to the power of sport

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By Metz Camfield

There is one thing in this world that can completely consume us and take a stranglehold over our emotions.

It can make you both cry for joy and out of despair. It can empty your bank account faster than a burglar. It can make you sit in certain positions out of fear of moving will affect what happens next. It can also make you twitch and sit restlessly in anticipation for what is to come next. But what is this thing that takes over our hopes, minds, dreams and emotions so effortlessly?

Women? Maybe, but I’m talking about sports.

TV shows and movies can move us to tears, make us laugh and scream in fear, but it is rare one can make us do all three. In sports, emotions are tossed around in the wind effortlessly.

Our mood depends on the result of our favorite team. If the coach or star player of our team gets in trouble for something, we feel betrayed. If someone says something derogatory about our team, we take it as a personal insult.

This summer we have the World Cup. While many Americans still haven’t latched on to “The Beautiful Game,” soccer is the world’s most popular sport and if you’ve seen some of the games so far, the sport may have begun to take you over as well, as it has so many others already.

When the United States tied Slovenia on June 18, I lost it. At halftime I was disgusted. I couldn’t have been in a worse mood. Then, as the second half progressed, I became frenetic. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t stop talking to myself.

Then, in the 82nd minute, when Michael Bradley scored the equalizing goal for the Yanks, I lost complete control over my body and emotions. I screamed incessantly for minutes on end, racing through my bedroom as if bees were chasing me while I tried to find a stick of dynamite whose fuse was ready to expire.

Only minutes later I felt like a child whose favorite Christmas present was broken by the annoying kid next door. Only that annoying kid next door was the match official, and that Christmas present was a United States victory, a victory that would have been the biggest comeback after halftime in World Cup history.

Sports can do that to a person. I’m not a part of the team in any way. I’m just a fan watching the game thousands of miles away on my little TV in my bedroom, but I’m consumed by it.

How is this possible?

How can I care so much about a team I have never seen personally, much less met a single one of the players? They have no idea who I am or that I exist, yet they manipulate and toy with my emotions like a marionette puppeteer.

In Anderson County, and throughout the Bluegrass, the Kentucky men’s basketball team has this ability as well.

When head coach John Calipari is around, he’s treated like a rock star. Instantly, people grab for their cell phones and cameras to take a picture as if he’s a magician who could disappear at any given second.

When John Wall, Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins walk through the campus at UK they’re treated like royalty. Yet the trio has never seen or talked to many of these students, and are actually younger than many of these students.

It doesn’t matter. In sports, all logic is thrown out the window.

What else could explain why someone would spend $100 for a shirt with another human being’s name on it? Especially when that person — me — is a broke college student who could use $100 for many other things in life, like, for example, food.

My point being, sports are a magical beast we’ll never fully understand.

Nothing can explain why hundreds of fans camp out in freezing temperatures, often on the side of a hill, for tickets to a practice. And yet it happens each year around Memorial Coliseum when Big Blue Madness tickets come out.

Nothing can explain why people paint their bodies to show their allegiance to teams. We don’t do this at weddings as we say our vows, why do we do this when we’re only one person in a crowd of 24,000 at Rupp Arena?

The morning after games we watched intently as if every part of our safety was on the line, we get up and do our best track impression as we race outside to see what the newspaper has to say, or, as many do these days, we race to the computer to see what the Internet has to say. Either way, despite the fact we saw every part of this game, our obsession can’t stop.

The complexity of sports behavior is an enigma that could stump even Sigmund Freud.

But I, for one, don’t especially care why or how sports grab this stranglehold over my own being. I’d rather just sit back and enjoy watching my favorite teams.

And maybe squirm, shout and lose all control every now and then.

E-mail Metz Camfield at mcamfield@theandersonnews.com.