I can distinctly remember one magical year, 1991, when the Chicago Bulls beat the LA Lakers four games to one and won their franchise’s first championship. (They went on to win a total of six titles in a single decade, only the second team to do so in NBA history.) That was the year I – along with many an awestruck adolescent – first laid eyes on Michael Jordan. I was 9 years old at the time but recognized, even then, that it was love at first sight.
I watched this man – at least what appeared to be a man on my television screen – fly through the air and seemingly defy gravity, along the way upending my juvenile comprehension of the laws of physics. At that moment, sport became more than just a game to me. It became my reason for waking up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings – to catch Eastern Conference games live even though I was in California. Or why I would beg to stay up late on weeknights, unable to withstand the torture of not knowing the outcome of a contest prolonged in overtime. Or what would cause me, some afternoons alone in my living room, to scream in angst if my team was down or shout in jubilation at the sight of their victory.
Eventually, my love for basketball would mature into a universal respect for sport as the epitome of competition, the ultimate test of the power of will, and the most elegant display of physical might. And though, like all devoted fans, I pledge my allegiance to certain ball clubs and would love for them to win every match played, sport is about more than just the satisfaction of victory. Its purpose is greater than simply getting a ball to fall through a hoop, hit the back of a net, find its way to a hole, or cross an arbitrary line that separates no man’s land from sacred ground. Sport, at its finest, is about that moment of exhilaration – with time winding down and everything riding on one final possession that keeps you at the edge of your seat, waiting to see what happens next.
The final score is less important than how a game is played, for a loss always comes with a lesson to be learned, and with each victory a stronger notion of self-worth. Regardless of the outcome, the value of sport endures: cultivator of passion, builder of discipline, teacher of respect for oneself and one’s peers. And to that end, I dedicate this issue of beijingkids (formerly tbjkids but still, as always, your best resource for all things related to family and kids in Beijing).