GO-O-AL! The Wonderful World of Sports

No one can pinpoint the moment when humans first became enamored of sports. All we know is that we like it, we love it, and we want plenty of it!

Historians tell us that most sports probably begin as the development and practice of essential skills for hunting and self-protection. This means our earliest sports most likely involved throwing spears or slinging rocks, like today’s javelin and shot-put events in track and field sports.

No doubt another early sport was running. After all, if there’s a saber-toothed cat after you, you’re not running for the endorphins or an Olympic gold medal. Whether you’re sprinting up a prehistoric tree or legging it out to the family cave, you’re running for the biggest goal ever – your life!

And while it would be several centuries before the Marquis of Queensbury invented rules for boxing or the WWE created the Smackdown, men have always used fisticuffs or wrestling to settle their differences. In fact, the Greco-Roman style of wrestling used today by high school teams is one of the oldest recorded sports still practiced.

Who could be considered the greatest athlete of all history? Hercules, who completed the mighty tasks of his 12 labors? Maybe it was William Tell, the archer who freed his country by shooting an apple off his son’s head. Could it be Roger Banning, the first man to run a four-minute mile? Some might say the greatest athlete is Michael Jordan, with his high jumps and his long hang time. Others might claim Tiger Woods, with his unerring drive and phenomenal concentration.

Yes, it seems that men have long enjoyed sports as practice for the manly arts of hunting and warfare. But what about women?

Throughout history there have been stories of women athletes. The Greeks told the tale of Atlanta, the beautiful princess who could run like the wind and refused to marry unless her suitor could beat her in a foot race. No matter that her eventual husband, Hippomenes, tricked her into losing by tossing golden apples in her path – sports are as much mental strategy as physical strength, right?

And then there are the women warriors, the Amazons of the Greeks and the Celtic women, who painted themselves blue like their men and went into battle screaming like Irish banshees. Who might compare to them today? I would think the likes of someone with the consistent grace of skater Kristi Yamaguchi or gymnast Nadia Comaneci; the first woman to earn a perfect “10” at the Olympics? Does she have the prowess of golfer Michelle Wie? Or maybe it’s the multiple track and field talents of Jackie Joyner-Kersee?

Truth is, the greatest athletes of all time are not those who make big headlines. No, the greatest athletes are those who participate for love of their sport, whatever it might be. Whether you run or bike, pitch or catch, skate or ski, swim or row or participate in any of dozens of other sports, what matters most is that you just do it, and enjoy every minute.