Why do we care?

Josh Yuen_online

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It’s an all-too-familiar question that I’ve encountered in my lifetime.

So… why do you care so much about sports?

I guess I do get a little bit excited when October rolls around, a time when football weekends, the drama of the MLB playoffs and the Phase I hype of basketball and hockey all converge on me at the same time.

Or near the end of March, when my overall production mysteriously takes a “small” dip because I’m mostly focused on a janky livestream of a college basketball game as I pretend to care about my math notes. Not just any basketball game, but interestingly enough, one being played thousands of miles away from me featuring two teams I have absolutely zero connection with.

(Shoutout to March Madness for forever hijacking my GPA.)

Having grown up in the Bay Area, I proudly identify myself as an avid fan of the San Francisco Giants and San Francisco 49ers, San Jose Sharks, Oakland Athletics and Oakland Raiders, and, most notably, the Golden State Warriors.

But above all, I’m a fan of sports as a whole.

As great as it is to see Steph Curry break another 3-point record is or the Giants loading up this offseason for another championship run, they aren’t the things that really get me going when it comes to sports. The stories that truly inspire me on a daily basis are the ones that aren’t even stories.

It’s in the experience.

Covering last weekend’s women’s basketball Senior Day at Haas Pavilion, I got the chance to see the Cal community honor seniors Mikayla Cowling and Penina Davidson before their final home game — two of the most respected student-athletes I’ve covered in recent memory.

When Cal, a team which has struggled to find success against ranked teams all year, grabbed a late lead over mighty Stanford, one could just feel how badly the team wanted this win for Cowling and Davidson.

“We wanted it for our seniors,” junior guard Asha Thomas confirmed.

As the minutes winded down and Cal’s resolve and lead failed to dwindle, the energy in Haas Pavilion grew. The community was on its feet, from the fans to the players, with all the spirit in the world focused on sending out the seniors out with a well-earned victory.

The Cal bench was jumping up and down, fans behind me were on their feet screaming, and even men’s basketball star Marcus Lee was fully engaged, sporting a cutout of Cowling’s face near the band section.

With 18 seconds remaining and the deal all but sealed, head coach Lindsay Gottlieb emotionally subbed her senior duo off the floor for the final time. The crowd erupted together — Cal and Stanford faithful — sending chills through everyone on press row that afternoon.

That moment alone epitomizes every bit of why I love sports so damn much.

It’s the magic of sports in a nutshell. And it simply doesn’t get much better than that.

As a fan, it doesn’t get much better than seeing the reception Dwyane Wade got when he returned home to Miami after an emotional trade.

It doesn’t get much better than witnessing the magic of Kevin Ware swishing his first shot months after a horrific injury in the heat of a March Madness game.

It doesn’t get much better than watching Derek Jeter and Kobe Bryant ride off into the sunset in the form of a game-winning performance, giving every sports fan watching chills that they’ll never forget.

It doesn’t get much better than storming a field after an upset victory, something I’ve done now twice in my two years at Cal, embracing and hugging people you’ve never met as if they’re a lifelong friend.

And it doesn’t get any better than utilizing sports as a platform to help those in need, whether it be a “Why We Love Sports Today” moment featured on SportsCenter or teams and players donating entire game checks to communities who have faced recent struggles.

Players are traded. Teams change. But the magic lives on, forever.

So as great as this decade has treated me — with a trio of World Series rings, a Stanley Cup Final appearance and a pair of NBA Championships — it’s the little things about sports that truly make me smile: the senior day moments, the chants of celebration and, most importantly, giving back to the community.

Giants or Dodgers, Cal or Stanford, Warriors versus the world  — it doesn’t matter what side a sports fan picks. At the end of the day, we’re all on the same team: the team that loves sports.

That, my friends, is why I care so much about sports.

Josh Yuen is an assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].