It’s an intense time of year in sports. NBA and NHL are coming down to the wire with teams fighting for playoff spots (or sometimes tanking for draft picks, but that is another post). Fans have flocked to Arizona and Florida for the annual ritual of spring training for baseball. Golf is getting pretty interesting as we move closer to the Masters. And of course college basketball is in the tournament now.
I had a few “a-ha” moments around the power of sports to build our social life over the past few weeks. Many of them involve college basketball, and again it’s a separate issue whether all the activity around college sports should accrue to the benefit of the athletes themselves. I wrote on that last week.
For the past few years, I’ve been super busy around the college basketball conference tournaments here in Las Vegas – we have four of them, more than any other market. Combined with the thousands of folks who flock to Las Vegas for the first weekend of march madness, Las Vegas really is the home of college basketball. But for the past couple of years I hadn’t gotten to enjoy them as much as usual. In 2015, we were preparing for the opening of T-Mobile Arena a year from then, and in 2016 we were right in the midst of that. In 2017, it was the first year of the Pac-12 tournament at T-Mobile Arena, so I was pretty focused with my team trying to make sure it went well.
This year I was able to enjoy a few more games, and made sure to enjoy them with some friends and colleagues. I was able to spend some quality time with those folks – commiserating over losses, celebrating wins, and generally watching the events with a fondness of being together. It’s time we wouldn’t normally spend, including some flying in from elsewhere and getting reconnected with the group.
This year for Las Vegas also has pro sports for the first time. A group of us bought tickets in the same section for the Golden Knights games, and we have made an “event” out of going to dinner before the game and then the game itself. Building relationships through conversations on the uber ride, or during breaks in the game, etc.
During the Pac-12, we had what one of my friends described as “one of the best days ever” when we got to watch the afternoon games, then head to a nearby bar to watch the Golden Knights win a road game, then head back for the evening games. We were smart enough to bring our wives the next night, but not smart enough to avoid referring to the day before as “one of the best days of our lives.” Win some, lose some.
Recently, I visited a colleague who came from LA with about 15 people for the first week of the NCAA tournament. They also got to integrate the trip with pro sports for the first time, visiting a Golden Knights game (but keeping a careful eye on the TVs around, to check on their brackets). The group started with my colleague’s dad and his sons. And it just keeps growing, and still going 15 years later.
That kind of ritual I wrote about a year or so ago, it keeps us connected to the rhythm of time, and more importantly to our family and friends, who we often just don’t take enough time to appreciate and share meaningful time and events with. And it is a big part of the power of sports in our lives.