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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

3 lessons from the world of sports

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

the Olympic rings over a world map

February is a big month in the world of sports. We start with the Super Bowl. Let’s party! Then we add the Winter Olympics, which only come once every four years. Can’t miss all that skiing and skating! Throw in college basketball and you have a sports junkie’s dream. Who cares if the weather outside is frightful?!

As a lukewarm sports follower, I recognized 3 lessons sports can teach all of us, whether we know a single statistic or can identify a single athlete.

Sports can bring us together

Where were you on the night of February 4, 2018? For more than 103 million Americans the answer was watching the Super Bowl. Not only did we watch it, we likely did so with others. The average Super bowl gathering had 17 guests. Many did not care whether the Eagles or the Patriots won, they enjoyed the excuse to hang out with family and friends. I’m quite sure many people who attended parties never watched the game. That’s okay.

Super Bowl parties account for the second largest eating holiday of the year, after Thanksgiving. Instead of turkey and pumpkin pie, we collectively eat 1.3 billion chicken wings, 12.5 million pizzas, 11 million pounds of chips, and 8 million pounds of guacamole. We wash down all that food with 50 million cases of beer, not to mention hard liquor and soft drinks. Not exactly MyPlate, but that’s okay. It still brought us together.

Sports can bring the world together

Where will you be on any given night between February 8th and 25th? Will you be watching the 2018 Winter Olympics, at least once? Will you watch the opening ceremonies when North and South Korea march in together along with 90 other countries? Or, will you tune in to watch alpine skiing, figure skating, curling, bobsledding, or luge? If it weren’t for the Olympics some of these sports would remain unknown to many of us. It is estimated that 3 billion people around the world will be watching. The Olympics unite us.

The Olympics showcases the best about sport… physical talent mixed with determination and dedication. Hours of practice, overcoming obstacles, and the pursuit of excellence. For the first time in history, female athletes comprise nearly 50% of Olympic athletes and compete in every sport. With nearly 3,000 athletes competing and 102 gold medals to be awarded, the vast majority will not stand on the podium and hear their national anthem. That’s okay, competing is a thrill they will never forget.

Losing doesn’t make us losers

Every sporting event has "losers" as well as winners. In the Olympics “losers” outnumber winners by a large margin. In events like the Super Bowl there is one of each. Losing is hard. Losing is disappointing. But losing doesn’t make us losers. To get to these events is a remarkable feat.

This week, on Wednesday, February 7th, my beloved Boilermakers were defeated by Ohio State in basketball. After a 21 game winning streak, a team record, Purdue lost by one point, 64-63. Are they losers? Not by a long shot! They remind us that winning streaks end, and then we regroup and redouble our efforts, and keep on playing. Life is like that, isn’t it? We “lose” a game, maybe even a season, but we aren’t losers. We learn, we grow, we get a dose of reality, and we keep on going.

“Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.” Wilma Rudolph

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