Sports force us to compete as equals.

Sports force us to compete as equals.

When you walk on the pitch, it doesn’t matter if you were born into the Parisian aristocracy or a miseria villa in Buenos Aires. Your last name doesn’t matter. The color of your skin doesn’t matter. Your wealth doesn’t matter. For 90 minutes, only one thing matters: can you score more goals than your opponent?

I grew up in Pittsburgh, in the time of Deer Hunter and All the Right Moves. The only way out of the coalmine, it seemed, was to play for the Panthers, the Nittany Lions, or god forbid, the Buckeyes. This singleness of purpose, this one escape route, seemed to bring great focus to the field. Seemed alright to me.

Because sports have long been hailed as a great leveler, a place where people from all walks of life come together to compete on equal footing. It’s a place where a person’s background, wealth, or social status doesn’t matter. All that matters is their skill, their determination, and their willingness to fight for victory. In a world where so much is divided by race, class, and wealth, sports offer us a glimmer of hope, a moment of unity where we can come together and compete as equals. Most of my football team mates there were darker than me, but I never noticed. Nor did they.

Growing up, I was always drawn to sports because of the way they brought people together. No matter where you came from, no matter what you looked like, you could always find common ground on the field or the court. Whether you were playing pickup basketball in the park or participating in a high school championship game, sports provided a space where everyone was treated the same. It was a place where we could forget about the outside world and focus solely on the competition at hand. There were rules, they were enforced, and we played by them.

In today’s world, it’s easy to feel like we’re constantly divided by our differences. We’re bombarded by news of political and social unrest, and it can be easy to feel like we’re never going to find common ground. But when you step onto the field, all of that fades away. For 90 minutes, you’re united with your teammates, fighting against a common opponent. It’s a moment of pure, unadulterated competition, where nothing else matters but the game.

It’s this spirit of competition that makes sports so special. In no other place are we forced to compete on equal footing, to push ourselves to the limit and see who comes out on top. In the business world, wealth and social status can often play a big role in determining success. In politics, it’s about who has the most power and influence. But in sports, it’s about who has the most skill, the most heart, and the most determination.

Of course, sports are not perfect. Like any aspect of society, they’re subject to the same biases and prejudices that exist in the world at large. There’s still a lot of work to be done to make sports truly equal, but I believe that the fact that they bring people together and force us to compete as equals is a step in the right direction.

So, let’s embrace the spirit of sports, let’s celebrate our differences, and let’s continue to strive for a world where we can all compete on equal footing.

I mentor two kids and several entrepreneurs. Similarities are coincidental.