COLUMN The things we are thankful for this holiday

Jamie Kapalko

In a world soiled by steroid scandals, money-grubbing egotistical superstars and fist-throwing Little League parents, it can be difficult to remember why we fell in love with sports in the first place. In the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I got to thinking. I realized that despite everything that tarnishes the sports world today, there are still things for which I’m grateful. So let’s give thanks …

For the countless hours we spend perfecting our Fantasy Football teams in order to triumph over our best friends, the precious extra minutes of World Cup injury time and the split second when the hockey goalie has to decide which way to dive.

For the thousands of World Cup fans who pay hundreds of dollars for tickets and show up at the game in full body paint and the six JV field hockey parents who cheer from their fold-out chairs on the sidelines, even though they have no clue what’s going on, except that the whistle blows every three seconds.

For the No. 14 seed beating the No. 3 seed, even when it screws our whole bracket.

For Hokies, Tar Heels, Terrapins and Aggies, and even Banana Slugs and Fighting Pickles, because not everyone can be Wildcats, and yes, mascots really do matter; just ask Marquette.

For the breaths we hold on the quarterback keeper when it’s fourth and inches and the ones we exhale when the tying free throw falls through the net with barely a whisper.

For that one guy on the bench who holds everyone else back when someone hits a “big three” to seal a victory.

For the sight of the court being rushed and the sound of the fight song and the smell of Icy-Hot in the trainer’s room and the taste of orange slices at halftime and the feel of the long fly ball landing, somehow, in the web of the glove when it’s soaring overhead and you just turn and reach and pray.

For sunflower seed spitting contests and hot dog eating contests and “Betcha I can bounce the ball off the mailbox and land it in the garbage can” contests.

For mud stains, grass stains and blood stains, for the raspberries on our thighs and, more importantly, for the 15-minute story of how they got there.

For “Roll, Tide, Roll” and “Hook ’em Horns” and Gator Chomps and Tomahawk Chops and, of course, “V for Villanova.”

For the Monday Night Football theme song and the freshman basketball warm-up tape and the national anthem and the way every single athlete gets happy feet when it hits “O’er the land of the free …”

For that kid who averages 30 seconds of playing time per game and the cheers from the fans when he subs in at the table and the look on his face when he hits a 3-pointer when the team is up by 25 and the points don’t matter.

For the batting cages in December and the summer basketball league in July and the gym in the off-season and knowing that it all pays off, somehow.

For Sunday morning slow-pitch games decided by three-run homers and girls’ fastpitch games decided by swinging bunts and World Cup games decided by a goal in overtime instead of penalty kicks and one-on-ones decided by “Next basket wins.”

For Olympic ring tattoos and faded varsity jackets and ESPN Classic and “Glory Days.”

For the Villanova basketball fans that go to the games we win by 35, and more remarkably, for the people that go to football and field hockey and baseball games – the Villanova sports fans.

Let’s give thanks, because these are the things that help create those moments when time, player contracts and BALCO don’t exist, and all that does exist is the game, ourselves and everyone else around us, and we’re all a part of it, and it’s a part of us – Moments, with a capital M, Moments that are pure sports, infinite and untouched by anything else. That’s what sports are about. That’s what I’m grateful for.

And for Jay Wright’s tailor. Because what he does – that’s art.