Sports

To all the sports I’ve loved before: McGill athletes and sports fans share love letters to the sports they love most

Tillie Burlock, Managing Editor 

Dear baseball,

My bat mitzvah was a week away. As my soft spoken tutor, Aaron, desperately tried to get me to focus on my D’var Torah, the speech I would be delivering before an audience of family members and bored preteens, Jose Bautista stepped up to the plate. I convinced Aaron that I could multitask; writing the speech while watching Game 5 of the American League Division Series between the Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers. I lied. As Aaron tried to draw me back to the kitchen table, I stood in the living room, riveted to the TV, watching as Bautista sent the Skydome into pure and utter chaos with the infamous bat-flip that would hook me on baseball for years to come. 

In the eight years that followed, I struggled to find my way playing on all-boys teams, attempting to figure out exactly how I fit in. The seasons from eighth to 10th grade were marred by constant teasing, being left out of the team group chat, and the snide whispers of parents who couldn’t figure out why I was taking away playing time from their son, obviously destined to play professionally. But thirteen- and fourteen-year-old me didn’t care. No amount of being called a bitch to my face or behind my back diminished my love of the smell of wet grass at an early morning practice or the strange satisfaction of seeing the seams come up on a bruise from blocking a ball in the dirt. 

Attending a high-performance school for sport when I was 16, I found myself in a situation where a coach twice my age pushed me out of a training facility that had once been my happy place. I suppose my flirty teenage personality led this coach to believe I was interested in him not as a coach, but as something more. The motivations of the coaches I had worked with quickly became blurred. When I turned 18, I was fair game, as they say, and coaches who I hadn’t heard from in years reached out, trying to connect in a way that felt so wrong, distorting my perception of what all those years of hard work had truly meant. As I matured, baseball quickly became a place of discomfort. I love you baseball, but not like that.

In 2022, my relationship to baseball changed again. That summer, I worked as a scout—a scouting intern as it were—and re-asserted myself in the very spaces that I felt alienated from when I was a younger girl. Occasionally, an older scout would ask my co-workers which one of them was sleeping with me, never letting me forget that my acceptance in baseball was conditional. I watched with jealousy as 16-year-old boys unselfconsciously fielded ground balls, free from the assumption that their presence on the field had anything to do with their gender or sexuality. My male co-workers looked on beside me, shielding me from the comments made just out of earshot, yet, watching from the place of comfort I longed to be part of. 

Now, four years removed from my playing days, I wonder what my life may have been like if I had never fallen in love with you, baseball. Would I have made my way in a sport better equipped to accept women? Maybe one that does not employ an abundance of domestic abusers at its highest level? Maybe one that would have been easier to love. 

I still love you, baseball. In spite of the complexity, the diamond will always feel like home. 

      Yours, 

      Tillie

Peter James Cocks, Contributor 

Dear my darling football,

You have been by my side my entire life. I have known you since my first steps, darting through the kitchen whilst my mother tried marking me from threatening corners. You introduced me to my first friends with the evergreen pickup line “What team do you support?” followed by hours of kickabouts, pointless nattering and a lifetime of friendship. Even now, there are few friends I can point to who didn’t come my way via football. And no, America, the bludgeoned sport you play with an egg is not ‘football’.

Even your cold concrete terraces have kept me comfortable through all these years, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the legions watching loss after loss. There’s a warmth in them, a fiery hope that one day we can return to the pub for a pint of lager to break the streak of consolation bitters. Even the deadened discussion over whether playing three at the back is outdated in today’s game gifts me an embracing escape from the monotony of life. 

People say you’re unpredictable; I disagree. 

I don’t know if I’ll go to my lectures; I don’t know when I’ll get around to doing my week’s shopping. But I sure as hell know when Chelsea is playing. Battling to find a video stream, to summon the energy for hope, to pray my mood is better in 90 minutes. To this day I can identify key moments of my life—anniversaries, hospital visits and deaths—by the football calendar encased in my brain. Call me a sad-case or obsessed, I simply do not care. You have been the one constant of my life, and I know I am not alone.

What other sport can entrance more than half the world for its finals, capture the audience of the UN General Assembly, command an army of die-hard lovers across every continent? 

Football can, and always will be, the world’s sport. All you need is two jumpers and a ball.

      Love forever more,

      Peter James Cocks.

Suzanna Graham, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Dear Cross Country,

I miss you. I remember the first time we met—I was a naive girl in a dress running toward a chalk line in the dirt a half mile away. My legs held no muscle then (and my arms still don’t). I remember feeling the wind floating through what was left of my thin ponytail and I knew: You were the one, my one.

It’s been 16 years since that first meeting. We don’t talk every day anymore. I still love you. Maybe the timing wasn’t right, or maybe I got lost in my head, seeing you as a punishment rather than a gift. Sometimes I think we should talk more. But I still see your influence. I see you when I look at myself in the mirror. The strength in my thighs and calves. The way I fix my gaze at an obstacle, and beat it. The drive to win—if only to impress myself. 

We haven’t always been exclusive. I’ve flirted with basketball, frisbee, and skiing. But during every other sport, I thought of you. Playing basketball, I thought of your shin splints, and iced my shins and knees after every game. In frisbee, I used your finishing kick to score the winning point. While skiing, I channeled your endurance that I’d finally earned, to push myself across kilometeres of vast snow. I’m not sure I always wanted you to be my forever. At this point, I don’t think I have a choice. It’s always been you.

I was five when I ran that first race in my dress, thinking I’d die after a cool half mile. I was fourteen when I competed at the state championship—and had qualified all on my own. I was seventeen when I left competitive cross country. Two days ago I was 21, running amid ice and snow for the sole purpose of fulfilling my own drive. I imagine myself at 60, with grey hair and new runners, running alongside a dog and hoping to avoid my family’s hereditary bad knees. You’re always there––always.

Maybe our love isn’t a quick, fiery burn. Maybe our time isn’t up. Maybe they were right when they said love is a marathon not a sprint. Maybe I’m not sure who //they// are, but I know you. And I know that in the marathon of life, I’m still running. And you’ll be at the finish line, cheering me on. 

      All my love,

      Suzanna

Megan Belrose, Contributor 

Dear Basketball, 

When I was three years old, my parents bought my brothers and me a Little Tikes basketball net. The rest was history. You were the first sport I knew and loved. My dad is a huge fan—really, I think he has the largest collection of Golden State Warrior shirts on the planet—and he instilled a passion for the sport in me. Basketball became a way for me to spend time with my family, whether that be playing pickup in the back lane or just sitting down to watch an NBA game. 

In high school, basketball was a welcome escape from the monotony of the classroom. Nothing quite compares to the atmosphere on the court when my team was fighting for a win. The feeling of community, the exhilaration when a basket falls, and the endless hours spent practicing in gyms are aspects of the game I’ll remember forever. 

I helped coach intermediate girls teams at my high school, and despite the hard work, I never wanted to stop. I loved seeing the elation on a player’s face after they made their first basket of the season. It reminded me of how it felt to play when I was their age, when every degree of improvement made me feel like I was walking on clouds.

The professional sport is another level entirely. I’ve been lucky enough to go to NBA games, and the physicality, drama, and passion are unmatched. There are moments of the game where you can’t help but hold your breath, knowing the fate of your team hinges on which way the basketball bounces. I love those moments more than anything.

Basketball is fun. I love every part of it, and the game has been and will continue to be an important part of my life. 

      Yours, 

      Megan

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