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Brewer: ‘Why we play’

A few times, I’ve heard one of my best friends say “wow, I just had a bigger than basketball moment.” Throughout the past year, I’ve really put some thought into those words, which hold more power than you may think. What does this statement mean?

Every athlete has a story and a reason why they do what they do. Maybe for some, it is the fame, the glory or the feeling of being empowered by the hype of the news and media stream when you reach a milestone. Yet, contrary to popular belief, I have realized that, for a lot of athletes, the blood and sweat run much deeper. I was thinking about female athletes, and the difference in pay and publicity they receive compared to men, and I wondered: What is their “why” given those circumstances? Then I wondered, is there a general “why”?

Just before Christmas, the Stanford women’s basketball team volunteered at Saint Anthony’s church in Atherton, serving and preparing food, as well as organizing and wrapping toys for children and those who are less fortunate. The word fortunate in itself was humbling, as we realized how many lives we were touching but most importantly realized that we are privileged and fortunate to represent something greater than ourselves. It is a privilege to have this platform, and privileges, sadly, often tend to be the things we don’t think about, because they have always been there.

We do play on a large stage, for a lot of people who enjoy watching our talent and hard work. However, the stage is not only lit by the revenue of sports fans. It is lit by the people we strive to touch, the vast number of people we meet, the young children we inspire and the determination, dedication and passion that we exemplify in our gameplay. There is more to the thoughts of the little girl asking me for an autograph after a game than just my stat line. That little girl looks up to me; she doesn’t quantify an orange ball and the number of times it goes through the mesh or the fact that I hardly played. She sees ‘STANFORD’ across my chest, and the smile I give back to her when she says ‘thank you’ with her bashful smile and bright, hopeful eyes.

What we all do as athletes is so much greater than ourselves. Life is bigger than basketball, and life is bigger than how many games you win. Athletes are playing for their families, for their country, for God and for the opportunity to have a voice, and interestingly enough, an athlete’s voice is often the elephant in the room, even with the amount of motivation, love and passion behind it.

Despite everything, here we are, still at ‘why’? What does ‘bigger than basketball’ mean? It encompasses the people we meet, the teammates we love, the raw emotion we show as we play, the things we stand for, or do not stand for, and the lives we touch. Most importantly, it refers to how we stand on this brightly lit stage, where we have to opportunity to say “we can help make the world a better place too.”

 

Contact Mikaela Brewer at mbrewer8 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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