11/11/2009 11:01 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Why Sports Matter

Contrary to conventional wisdom, sports are not a metaphor for life.

They are life.

I don't mean that in the overblown, overtly macho Vince Lombardi way, where killing yourself at practice and sacrificing your body to score points may be the most important thing an athlete has to offer to society. I mean it quite literally.

Sports are played by human beings - sometimes inspiringly courageous, sometimes damnably fallible - and watched by other human beings. Sports has workers (the players), several layers of bosses (coaches, owners, athletics departments, university presidents), and multinational corporate HQs (MLB, NFL, UEFA, NCAA). People who work in sports probably endure the daily grind in much the same way you do, though many of the workers don't have cubicles, may make millions of dollars per year, and don't leave huge butt-dents in office chairs at the end of every work day.

Fans buy into sports in much the way investors play the stock market. Buying North Carolina basketball this season? You're a risk-averse large cap investor. Snatching up all the Detroit Lions you can find? You're buying low-priced options to be cashed in when (if?) the brand rallies in the future. Prefer University of Akron men's soccer? That's the equivalent of buying into an extremely successful local mom n' pop operation. Maybe you bought the NBA league pass on your satellite system. You're like the market whiz who stakes his claim in the technology sector. How we invest our time and money determines which sports are nationally successful, but we mostly do it for our own enrichment.

Some of us express our personas to the outside world via the sports bumper sticker. We can project our personalities through our choice of a specific NASCAR driver's number, a scarlet letter A topped with a halo, or a copyright-infringing cartoon of Calvin micturating on a Broncos helmet. Tell me you don't know who that guy is.

Brought to a point, sports represent one of the ligaments that binds our society together. Complete strangers from opposite ends of the social and political spectrums will high-five enthusiastically every time the Dallas Cowboys win a football game this season. Diverse groups of neighborhood parents will stand on chilly fields in November cheering for nine-year-old girls to score (or prevent) goals. NHL fans will still smuggle octopi into ice rinks with or without a national TV contract for their beloved sport.

Some will enjoy sports on a private and personal level, like my 91-year-old grandmother, who refuses to answer the telephone when tennis is on.

Regardless, sports will continue to matter to us. Sports are us, and we are sports.