There’s a popular argument against sports.
It’s that they’re trivial. That they don’t really matter. That it’s inept and insane to waste time, money, energy and emotion on rooting for something that you have no impact on, and doesn’t necessarily need to have an impact on you. That you’d be better off cheering for a bright shade of green on the grass of your lawn.
There’s some validity in that argument. Until something like this happens.
Mick Fanning woke up to terrible news today — his older brother died in his sleep. He also woke up to maxing Pipeline and what could be the deciding day of the 2015 World Title race.
Everything’s hanging in the balance. An entire year of competitive surfing — of too-early mornings, of barbaric training sessions, of 27-hour long travel days, of homesickness, of the waves suck but I’m surfing anyway, of tough heats, of tough losses, of annoying interviews, of foreign illnesses. And, for Mick, of a shark attack.
And now a man in the throes of tragedy is about to put on a jersey, paddle out at the world’s most dangerous wave, and try to make it all worth it.
So, sure, you can still note the absurdity of a grown man placing a foam brick of cheese on their head and flying to Wisconsin to watch grown men tackle each other. But a story like this is different.
Somebody dealing with so much pain and having to put forth a huge performance in front of a million eyes. The summation of a year exploding into the reef at Pipe while the man in the yellow jersey is finding purpose some place deeper.
That’s a story worth watching. That’s something worth rooting for.
Go Mick Fanning, go. —Brendan Buckley