I’ve always been a sports fanatic. Not long ago, I realized a whole year had gone by and I hadn’t watched anything on TV besides sports and news. And that was OK with me.
You never know what you’re going to find on my television. Usually hockey, basketball or football. Men’s and women’s golf. Sometimes baseball, soccer or rugby. Anything Olympics. Downhill snow skiing and snowboard halfpipe. Triple Crown horse racing. Sometimes NASCAR or Formula 1 racing. And last year, I learned to love watching darts and snooker in the UK.
Sports have a way of uniting us. I realized early on that talking about sports, whether you’re an athlete yourself or not, can be a great equalizer. No matter where you go in the world, talking about sports can break the ice, even when you’re not speaking the same language. Sports cross boundaries of gender, age, mental and physical ability, profession, religion
In this issue, we examine the role the sports industry plays in Orlando. People are increasingly gathering in Central Florida to take part in competitive events — everything from the traditional, like tennis and little league baseball, to the ultramodern, like monster trucks and video games. Orlando is more diverse in its offerings than almost anywhere else on the planet, thanks to places like ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney, Camping World Stadium and Amway Arena downtown, and the Orange County Convention Center, just to name a few.
I was on Church Street one recent evening heading to a Solar Bears hockey game against the Florida Everblades. All of us in purple and orange jerseys were “swimming upstream” toward the Amway Arena, and a flood of purple soccer shirts approached us. The Orlando City fans were headed out of the stadium they had packed that afternoon for their season opener against New York City.
We all jammed into the sports bars, where we sat elbow to elbow, united, with our heads tilted toward the TV screens. We were cheering for the unranked University of Central Florida men’s basketball team in a close game they eventually won against the eighth-ranked Houston Cougars. Whether we were Gators, Seminoles or Hurricanes, that evening we were all Knights. During commercials, we talked about whether the brand-new Orlando Apollos football team would win their fourth game that night in Salt Lake City, where heavy snow was predicted. (They did.)
We were all comrades in arms. That’s how it is with sports. And with friendly competition
Competitive events help us escape. Many of us are running businesses, working with nonprofits, raising families, caring for aging parents, dealing with finances, studying for degrees, taking care of houses and yards, braving weather elements … the list goes on. Anything that helps us take a healthy rest from all of these daily pressures has to be good for us, right
It only makes sense that a place known for family-friendly entertainment options would also increasingly become known for sports. People are coming to Orlando from all over the world as competitors and spectators. And the sports industry is only going to continue to grow here.
That is definitely OK with me.