09/08/2012 01:08 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Why Do Sports Matter?

The best stories to read and listen to in sports involve athletes who feel on top of the world one year and hit rock bottom the next. The Fab Five of Michigan were touted as the most talented group of freshmen to play on one team. Their on and off-court antics, mixed with their two consecutive national championship losses, gave them a bitter legacy. Chris Herren was the center of attention at Durfee High School in Fall River, Massachusetts, where high school basketball was as important as the Red Sox were to Boston. His drug addiction and the pressure of returning to Massachusetts to play in the NBA for the Celtics led to an overdose on heroin and a trip to rehab. He has been clean for several years now. He is married to his high school sweetheart with two kids and is coaching basketball. ESPN has scavengers that retell these great stories that took place when I was too young to understand them. The best part of these stories is that they give goosebumps to die-hard sports fans as well as people that don't know how much a basket is worth in basketball.

You may ask, why do these stories matter to me and why should they matter to you? First ask yourself, do you currently or did you used to play sports? Chances are you took the bus to your away game. Your parents went with you to the store to buy you a new pair of shoes each season. These things may be standard to your experience, but it was a luxury for high school phenom Sebastian Telfair. Telfair was a basketball player from Coney Island. He attended Lincoln High School and carried them to three straight New York City Championships and the school became nationally ranked. What did he wear to his games? During his childhood, he had to borrow sneakers from his sister who happened to have the same shoe size as him at that time. For his high school games, sometimes his team had to walk. He ended up becoming the 13th pick in the NBA draft right out of high school. He left the projects so that his family could live in their own house, not the projects. He got a sneaker deal and never has to worry about not having shoes. He takes private planes for his games. How could you not be inspired?

Perhaps you answered no to my first question. You have never played a sport in your life. My question for you is, what do you think of people who do play sports? Maybe they were the jerks and the cocky people at your school. Maybe you wondered, how could a sport be so meaningful to someone's life? Take Court McGee. He was a wrestler in high school but suffered from a severe ankle injury. The injury led to nine surgeries and his use of painkillers. Those painkillers triggered the use of cocaine and ultimately heroin. McGee overdosed on heroin the second time he did it. He was revived after eight minutes without a heartbeat while his parents were by his side. Just another dumb jock that fell off the deep end? Not so fast. McGee started to take on mixed martial arts as an escape from drugs and a way to channel his past. He climbed his way to one of the biggest stages in America, the Ultimate Fighter, and won the championship in season 11. His journey was a tremendous inspiration for his family, wife, and people struggling with addiction everywhere.

It'd be fallacious to say that sports solely signify winning games and scoring points. They keep inner-city kids off the streets where drug dealing and violence are part of everyday life. They put food on the table for families that eat fast food three meals a day. They are what push kids to go to college and go to class. These athletes have special stories that make all of these things true. Athletes are role models in the world for a reason and they all have stories to share that should never be untold.