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Get off the bench

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MARCH 22, 2017

If you haven’t watched the video of Geno Auriemma talking about the importance of body language, you should change that.

Share it with someone who has decided they hate sports, or someone who loves sports but claims that women’s basketball is pointless. It’s an important message bolstered by the fact that it just happens to be coming from one of the best college basketball coaches ever. Actively supporting others has nothing to do with sports. It’s just the reason why a year-old video can catch internet fire.

Sports have the unique ability to put things far outside of a final score or a record-breaking performance in the spotlight. The events that occur on the field can inspire us to be closer with our communities and have important conversations that otherwise would have gone neglected, and they can teach us to live our lives just a little bit better.

I often get asked if I want to continue with sports journalism as a career, or if I would be open to pursuing other areas of journalism. Of all the questions I get asked about my future, this is by far the easiest to answer. Without a doubt or even a slight pause, I reply in the affirmative. It’s sports, it will always be sports. It’s that video, explaining why it is important to support others and be conscious of our actions always, that make sports such a crucial platform.

Auriemma’s incredible answer was most likely far more than the questioning reporter thought they would ever get in a press conference. How often do you get lectured on the importance of body language in the midst of the Final Four of the women’s NCAA tournament? But it shows exactly why I will always answer yes to writing about sports. Sports isn’t really just sports. It’s not only about what happens on the court or the field. The lessons and avenues that sports allow us to write and talk about are unparalleled. They give the attention to the parts of our world that get glanced over. They give us a platform to discuss the neglected. The game is the entertainment value that gives us the opportunity to find broader topics that wouldn’t otherwise see the light of day.

Colin Kaepernick getting called out by the president of the United States for not being able to sign with an NFL team is quite a concept. Mediocre free agent NFL quarterbacks don’t often get to be on the front page of the sports section, let alone anywhere near politics. This is a unique case, of course, because of the public stances Kaepernick has taken on issues facing this country.

But because a Black athlete is taking a stance that matters and is controversial in method, it makes us talk about it. Sports are our avenue for having the conversation that we most likely wouldn’t be having otherwise. We are talking about the fact that Kaepernick may or may not be getting looked at by potential teams because of the public stance he took. It’s under debate if it has any relation to the color of his skin or the fear that the president might call a team out on social media if they sign him. Is it the color of his skin or the fact that he took a stance or that they are just scared of getting called out? Or that he just isn’t what teams are looking for in a quarterback?

Other issues are seen throughout sports that are representative of those going on in society, that maybe don’t get talked about as often as they should. This week the U.S. Women’s Hockey team announced it was boycotting the World Championships because the players are not being paid fairly or equally. Even with hockey not being the most high-profile sport in the United States, this issue of women not receiving equal pay blew up more because they are athletes. Some random organization that wasn’t paying their employees fair wages wouldn’t get that kind of attention.

When politics and important social issues in this country find their way into the topic of conversation because of sports it makes us pay attention. Sports are so far from just score sheets. They show us the current problems we are facing, often unknowingly, and introduce the issues that are worth getting off the bench to cheer about.

Contact Alaina Getzenberg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @agetzenberg.

MARCH 22, 2017