Sports have power to amaze, devastate athletes, fans

The power of sports amazes me.

I love cheering for my teams but it hurts when they lose. In October, I was introduced to the coolest group of women around. I was lucky enough to be invited to the espnW retreat. I had always wanted to go to a "retreat" because it sounds relaxing, but this retreat was like a weekend full of vitamins and super-food for the mind, body and soul. espnW is quite simply, my people. We are women who are strong in mind and body and willing to challenge ourselves. Oh yeah, and we might know a thing or two about sports. I'm thrilled to be a part of their wonderful blog group -- here is my first entry.

I have several allegiances and I cheer for all of them with my whole heart. They make no sense to people who don't know my background so let me explain. I went to school at Stanford University and although I rarely make it out to a game, they are my first priority. The last game I attended in Palo Alto, the Cardinal were shut out by USC. ... My, how times have changed. Now they're headed to the Orange Bowl.

Before the Cardinal, I bled Husker RED. I grew up with a mom who was such a diehard Nebraska football fan that you could barely talk to her on Game Day ... and didn't even think about talking to her if they lost. She was born and raised in Tekamah, Neb. and went to NU ... 'nuf said. And her passion rubbed off on me. My favorite all time player is Tom Rathman -- tough as nails.

On the pro side, I grew up a Niner fan but lost my love somewhere in the late 90's. Then, I met my husband in 2003 who was born in good ole Buffalo. Since we married, I've been a Buffalo Bills fan. I jokingly tell people that it was a part of our wedding vows: "I take you, Erik -- and the Bills -- to be my husband -- and my NFL team." Not true but it wasn't that far off.

I LOVE cheering for my teams and with that love and passion comes potential disappointment. I learned this all too well as a crazy Sacto Kings fan during Game 5 of the Western Conference finals (can't remember the year). To make a long story short, Robert Horry single-handedly killed our dream of going to the NBA Finals -- in one second. I was destroyed. That said, it took one walk around a cold NYC block for me to snap out of it and realize I had to separate myself from my team. I was too emotionally invested. Now, I enjoy it more.

Which brings me to this past Thanksgiving weekend. I wasn't taking cold laps around a NYC block but some of it was still pretty hard to watch. Boise State is not one of my core teams but we live so close to Idaho that we've totally adopted them. It was a fun game to watch. And I love that it was a nail biter -- another overtime. But my heart hurts for the kicker, Kyle Brotzman. Brutal to not only miss one game-winning field goal, but two! It was such a big deal and I felt so badly for him. I think everyone did. I wanted to somehow let him know that, while sports are awesome, they're not everything. I also wanted to point out the fact that in about 15 years, sports will simply be what he watches on TV every weekend -- like the rest of us!

Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, we sat down to cheer on our Bills. Like every week, I believed we could win -- even against the Steelers. I felt like the Bills were beginning to gel and that Fitzpatrick is so damn solid. But, unfortunately, they're so damn unlucky -- at least, according to my husband. It's brutal to watch them, not because they don't play well, but because they play so damn well only to lose by just a little. The Bills play with heart. This time, about halfway through overtime, my heart went out to a super-fantastic, young wide receiver named Steve Johnson. He had a chance to be the hero of Buffalo and the Center in SportsCenter. But he dropped the perfect pass in the end zone in overtime. Brutal. Every week he plays with heart and that Sunday was no different. Players make mistakes every game. Johnson's big mistake just happened at a real bad time. So sad for Buffalo and really sad for Steve.

The point is that these games that we love so much are just games. Although the NFL (and college sports for that matter) are big business, the players play with passion every single weekend because they LOVE it. They've always loved it, ever since they were kids, and that's how simple it should be. I wish I could send both Steve and Kyle a note that says, "Yeah, I'm not going to lie, that really sucked. You should have made the field goals/catch but you didn't. But you know what, you're no less a person for it." The opportunity to learn from failure is the greatest gift of all time. Failure a gift? Yes it is. Before I won two golds, a silver and a bronze medal in the 1992 Olympics, I missed making the team by .27 of a second. Try waiting for four years to get another chance. Thanksgiving weekend proved that sporting events are the truest and best reality shows of all time. Go Stanford, go Nebraska (unless you're playing Stanford!) and go Bills.

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