January 2017

by Marshall Chapman

Photograph by Anthony Scarlati

Sports as salvation …

I admit. I’m a sports fan. A Vanderbilt sports fan at that. Which means I have suffered. I’ve often thought Vanderbilt football fans should be issued hair shirts at the beginning of each season. Yes, I was at Vanderbilt Stadium when we lost to LSU because we couldn’t get the field goal unit on the field. And yes, I was in South Carolina for Thanksgiving watching TV (with all my Chapman relatives) when Vanderbilt lost a squeaker to Tennessee on the last play of the game. I could go on and on. But hey, it’s a new day. Derek Mason seems to be building something over on West End, so . . . stay tuned!

It embarrasses me sometimes when I think about how affected I am by sports. I was playing an in-the-round at the Bluebird Café when I heard the news that Vanderbilt’s football team had defeated Tennessee 45–34. I had a bad sore throat that night, but that didn’t stop me from screaming out loud. Since most everybody in the audience was from out of state, I imagine my outburst caused confusion.

I’ve often said, only two things can make us forget we’re going to die—sports and entertainment. And with the line dividing sports and entertainment getting fuzzier every day, I now modify that statement, replacing entertainment with art. But then, sports can often seem like art.

Anybody who saw Shane Foster make nine straight three-point baskets in Memorial Gym against Mississippi State on March 5, 2008, can attest that they were witnessing something beyond greatness. Foster was poetry in motion that night. He couldn’t miss. With Mississippi State defenders hanging on him like laundry, he couldn’t miss. Vanderbilt won 86–85. Foster hit an NBA-range three-pointer to send the game into overtime. Then drained a final buzzer-beater to win it.

Life is often difficult and unpredictable. People can be irrational and unreasonable. But sports will never let you down. It’s true, some games you win, others you lose, and a few get rained out. But with every spring comes another season of baseball. And every fall brings football, and with March comes March Madness. At the dawn of each new season, we’re all undefeated.

And if you love sports, like I do, it’s enough to keep you keeping on.

Marshall Chapman is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter, author, and actress. For more information, visit www.tallgirl.com.

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