Virginia Union women's basketball

Players from Ashland and Virginia Union shake hands following during the NCAA Division II championship basketball game at Ohio Dominican University in Columbus on Friday, March 24, 2017. Ashland won the game 93-77.

Why do we love sports?

The passion. The thrill. The escape they provide from a long day, week or month.

Yes. Yes. Most definitely, yes.

We love the competition between players and teams. We marvel at the talent on the playing surface, three-quarters amazed at what those athletes can do and one-quarter jealous we can’t do it.

We love sports because we are huge fans of our teams and want them to win. Some of us go to great lengths to help our squad — just as superstitious as some of the players on the roster — by wearing those lucky, never-washed socks, sitting on the same couch cushion, applying copious amounts of face and body paint while screaming from the upper deck like somehow our shrills will make our team play better all the while reminding the officials they’re missing a great game.

We love the atmosphere and pageantry of being at the game. It takes us back to when we were kids walking into a stadium for the first time, one hand in a glove, the other holding on to a loved one who thought enough to bring us.

We love the sounds. The smells. We love the peanuts and Cracker Jacks. The stale beer. The salt that falls off the pretzel into our laps. We love the popcorn we spill when we jump up to cheer an amazing play. We don’t love the arm and a leg it costs to purchase all that, but it’s worth it.

Why? Cause we love it.

Most of all, we love sports for the unexpected. The underdogs. The amazing feat that happens only in dreams, but somehow, on this night, it comes to life right before our eyes.

We love the “Did you see that?” The “He did what?” The “Holy cow!”

We love expecting the unexpected. The hands-on-your-head, covering-your-mouth play that leaves everyone wide-eyed and speechless.

Like Florida’s overtime win against Wisconsin in the Sweet 16 on Friday night in New York.

Fan of the Gators or not, if you saw that one-footed, off-balance shot put shot by Wisconsin’s Zak Showalter to send the game to overtime, you jumped and yelled. Same for Chris Chiozza’s shot to give Florida the win five minutes later.

As sports fans, we love those plays, even if it’s our team that is on the losing end. Sure, it stings, but deep down, you’ve got to tip your hat and shake your head, knowing it took an incredible play to win.

We also love the streak, the Cinderella run, the team that catches fire at the right time and pulls off the amazing charge to a championship.

Like the Virginia Union women’s basketball team.

The Panthers lost to Ashland in the Division II national championship game Friday night. It was a bitter end to a great season, but a season the Union women should be most proud of.

The Panthers blazed their way through the NCAA tournament, pulling off three upsets over higher-seeded teams to find themselves in the championship game against undefeated Ashland.

Maybe no one outside the VUU program could have predicted this. But they believed, and in the process made believers out of everyone else.

That’s also why we love sports, they make us believe that anything is possible.

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