Anticipation is the essence of sport
A few weeks ago, I drove into the Hockey Australia offices to watch the Hockeyroos play a must-win game against Argentina.
A win would book the women’s team a place in the Olympic semi-finals, but a draw or a loss would relegate the team to third in their group, and ultimately a playoff for fifth position.
The Argentine women were the favourite for the match. Ranked second in the FIH world rankings, and featuring the seven time World Hockey Player of the Year, Australia’s Hockeyroos would need to be at their very best to upset Las Lionas.
Despite their very best efforts, the Hockeyroos were unable to find the net, and were forced to endure a heart-breaking nil-all draw. The team would finish the preliminary phase with a record of three wins, one loss and one draw and, with only two goals conceded throughout five matches, must consider themselves unlucky to be out of medal contention.
Despite the final score and its implications, the match gave me pause to consider why those of us who love sports love sports and I think I have worked it out.
It is that feeling before the event when anything could happen. The game/race could go our way and we’ll feel joyful, or things may not quite work out, and we’ll feel the heartbreak as if we’re out there on the field, track or velodrome ourselves.
Just before the first ball is hit, or the starter’s gun fires, or the cyclists push off, anything might happen.
In our normal lives, that thrill of uncertainty is less and less common. Most of us know where we’ll be later today, next week, and probably (to a large extent) next year. But in sports, for a brief moment, all options are open. We attach ourselves to elite sportspeople for this reason, for the amazing feeling that there is no script, and the future is uncertain.
It doesn’t matter that we’re not out there ourselves with a hockey stick, or huddled over the starting blocks in the Olympic stadium, or perched on a two-wheeled machine in the velodrome. Those people out there represent us, the very best that we could be, and the relative impossibility that anything is possible.
All across the sporting landscape, on sporting fields across Australia and around the world, individuals and teams are lining up to start their game. Just before each of those games and races start, those participants and the people who love and support them are dreaming of what might be.
Anything is possible. What a wonderful feeling.