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Column: Answering the question I get asked the mostPosted Wednesday, August 15, 2012, at 12:23 AM
You won't often find me with my attention undivided, so Saturday night -- just like most others -- I was splitting it between following the muted Cardinals games on my television, reading Pinterest and Twitter updates on my phone and watching makeup tutorials on YouTube.
Yes, my life exhilarating.
Unlike most weeks, Twitter informed me that a meteor shower would be taking place later that night.
Not wanting to be the type of person who sits on the couch staring at her phone while a meteor shower is being all beautiful outside, I decided I should head out to my back deck and stare at the sky and the stars for a while.
The meteors were fascinating, of course, and I saw quite a few. But I am not the sort of person who can be trusted to sit in the quiet and look out into space for an extended period. My mind starts to wander into random and useless places and think about things far more than they should be thought about.
It just so happened that I pulled on my St. Louis Cardinals hoodie before I stepped outside, which I think may be how I ended up analyzing my love of sports for a while.
I probably have been asked why and how I became a sports fan and eventually a sports journalist hundreds of times in my life. It's the No. 1 question I'm asked, and I wish I had a clear answer for you.
It's easiest to explain how I became a sports journalist. I always tell people that I loved sports for as long as I can remember and some time during junior high I started to love writing, although it took a few years and an extraordinary English teacher for me to start to get good at it.
Eventually I came up with this equation: sports + writing = sports journalism. It turns out those things don't quite add up the way I thought they did, but believing they did got me started.
How I came to love sports is much more difficult to answer.
I was born with an extra dose of competitiveness and an unexplainable need to beat other people, whether it be at games, in the classroom or somewhere else I could find a way to gauge winners and losers.
This is going to sound like hyperbole, but I really don't think it's possible for any 5 year old to take T-ball games more personally and seriously than I did. I'm sure some have matched me, but exceeding me would be difficult.
I actually tried to refuse to accept the trophy they handed out at the end of the season in protest to every player getting one when clearly only the winners should have received one. Nevermind the fact that they didn't keep score.
I don't remember what my mom said to me when I told her what I thought of the trophies, but it convinced me I had better smile and accept it.
I also created a basketball game called Popperball (at least I think that's what it was called). The rules of the game were vague and ever-changing, but the result was always the same -- I won.
I could go on all day, but these stories probably don't sound unfamiliar to some of you. I've heard similar stories about plenty of athletes I've covered and know many people who fall into the category of "former athlete," which is a generous title for the likes of me, had the same traits.
Of course there are plenty of people who play or have played some sports at some point in their lives who don't share these traits, and some people who never played who do.
But I think there probably also are a lot of people in the middle. People whose self-worth never was affected by whether they beat their grandma in a game of cards but who also never experienced that valuable feeling of victory until they put on a uniform, set out to achieve something then did it.
I think that's why I love sports, and I think that's why I like being around and writing about the people who still do.
I can understand something about the people who play and coach and appreciate the game, whatever it may be, even if I've never talked to them.
And every once in a while, if I'm lucky, I get to see them achieve something that changes or validates or excites them in a way they never would have guessed. It doesn't matter if it's David Freese in the World Series or high school freshman Chase Hagerty in a district baseball championship.
No meteor shower can match that kind of wonderful.
Rachel Crader is the editor of semoball.com. Her column appears Wednesdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Rachel Crader is the editor of semoball.com. She graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in May of 2009 before spending the summer covering the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
Highlights from Rachel's days in college include having a class down the hall from Chase Daniel and having NCAA wrestling champion Ben Askren hold the door open for her at Brady Commons, Mizzou's student center. She spent time covering Mizzou basketball, softball and baseball while working for the Columbia Missourian and is excited to return home to Southeast Missouri to cover local sports for semoball.com.
Rachel has covered three Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournaments for the Southeast Missourian and semoball.com, and she'll see you courtside again this year.
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