02-25-2018  5:41 pm      •     
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Jefferson High School basketball champs
The Black Athlete by Omar Tyree

Jefferson High School boys take home the championship in 2014. 

For the seventh year in a row, I drove out to the North Carolina Western Regional Basketball Championships to watch the best high school girls and boys teams square off for a trip to the North Carolina State Championships next weekend at Chapel Hill. Normally, I take one or both of my sons with me to watch, but often I attend the games alone when my sons are uninterested. Each time I get the same curious question from other parents. “So, which kid out there is yours?”

Do I have to have a son or a daughter in the games to watch great high school competitions? I’ve been watching competitive sports games at every level since my own years of high school back in the 1980s. In fact, I watched competitive games without my immediate family or friends involved, dating all the way back to my football days with the Police Athletic League of Philadelphia at age 9. I would walk or ride my bike to the surrounding neighborhood playgrounds of Philadelphia just watch great teams get it on, and I still do so today, nearly forty years later, with my car now. 

Is there something wrong with that? Am I a sports addict just for supporting hard-working young athletes, who all appreciate having someone in the stands to cheer them on? I’d rather do that than sit around the house drinking beers and watching old movies and frivolous reality shows on television. That’s typically what happens when folks say, “I have other things to do.” They end up doing a bunch of nothing for hours.
There have been times where I actually forced my two sons to accompany me to ball games, cultural and educational events rather than have them sitting around playing video games or watching cartoons all day. And each time, they became inspired by other kids and adults who they never knew or even thought of before, including inspiration from girls and women.
I must admit, I continue to feel a bit irked by parents and students, who show up at the huge coliseums in Greensboro, Winston Salem and Raleigh only to watch their own kids or schools compete before leaving, particularly when the girls’ games are up. These gyms literally go from having three-thousand wild, crazy and cheering fans to three hundred in a matter of minutes after a great exodus toward the exits.
I wish we could somehow make it mandatory for folks to watch at least two games, while alternating the boys and girls competitions, to give these hard-working and talented girls teams the same awesome crowd feeling that the guys have. Let’s lock these parents in, tournament style, so they can all learn to care a bit more about the efforts, dedication and performances of other kids, teams, schools, coaches and the hopes of other people, including girls.
Heck, I even watch the colorfully outfitted cheerleaders, building their triple-decker pyramids with acrobatic kicks, twists, drops and catches, accompanied by crowd-pleasing quadruple back flips from the young, gymnastic tumblers on the team. You think these cheerleaders don’t realize that three-thousand people are watching them? They don’t rush out to center court during time-outs and halftime for nothing. They want the same feelings of anxiety, nervousness and anticipation to perform a great feet as the ballers. These cheerleaders have been practicing all week for a big performance just like the players.
You can call me a fanatic if you want, but at the end of day, athletes and cheerleaders of every sport and every age are humans, who have put in an awful lot of time and work to master the minor and major details of athletic execution for us to all marvel, cheer and be inspired by in their planned and random actions and reaction in crucial games of success and failure.
Sports are the stuff of real life, like driving a car to work, helping your kids with math, or cooking a tasty meal for visiting relatives at a family get-together. So what’s so wrong with going out to show your support at a youth sports in the evenings or on the weekends, when you really don’t have anything “better” to do? I’ll take my sports addiction of supporting young, athletic humans over drinking, smoking, gambling, eating, voyeurism, video games or social media any day of the week.
And yes, I still manage to see my kids perform in their sports events, get my work done, spend time with friends and family, read, write, think and everything else that normal adults do. We simply miscalculate how many hours we have in a full day. So why not be inspired by sports during your free time? It’s an addiction of supporting others.

Omar Tyree is a New York Times bestselling author, an NAACP Image Award winner for Outstanding Fiction, and a professional journalist, who has published 27 books, including co-authoring Mayor For Life; The Incredible Story of Marion Barry Jr. View more of his career and work @ www.OmarTyree.com

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