As baseball fans everywhere know, the ALCS is currently being played here in Dallas. The Texas Rangers, once again, have captivated our population as a whole, giving our city a wonderful escape from our everyday lives. We all wait patiently for the first pitch and swing of the bat to begin. We marvel at seeing these superbly conditioned athletes performing at supreme levels, watching in awe at their unique abilities. Like art in motion, their magical actions and reactions on the playing field let us witness what God-given gifts and talents some are truly born with. Our focus on them is unwavering, and pumps our insides with adrenaline-filled excitement.

I've loved sports since my father first placed a tennis racket in my hand at the age of four. He saw the value of doing this, how it would soon teach me the discipline, effort, and sweat required to become truly good at something. Tennis taught me the value of physical conditioning, though I'll admit, age has started creeping around my waistline. It made me feel the joy of winning, and the pain of losing. It pushed me to try harder, to strive for perfection, to seek out new challenges, and learn the lessons of competition. To this day, I never miss watching a major tennis tournament final because of the majestic displays of sheer athleticism. As you can probably tell, tennis holds a special place in my heart because it was the first game I ever played.

Sporting events bring us together in uniquely, amazing ways. Despite a few hecklers in every crowd, the atmospheres are overwhelmingly positive and happy. People relish the excitement and adrenaline flowing through them before ever arriving in the stadium, or ballparks parking lot. We tend to forget about everything else, savoring the calm for a few, cherished hours. Those hot dogs and greasy hamburgers we all scarf down at the concession stands always seem to taste better than anything else, even better than your grandmothers homemade apple pie. The air seems a little cleaner, the people noticeably friendlier. Political and religious arguments suddenly fade away. That harsh boss at your office has disappeared. Work is a faded memory. But why? What makes football on Sundays and the mere mention of sports bring a smile to ones face. What makes so many go as far as letting their utility bills fall behind a month or two in order to snag a ticket to the big game? And why is it that nothing grows a crowd bigger and faster than a major tournament or playoff series?

The energy of a sports atmosphere draws us into a simplistic place and time. It's away from most things negative, downbeat, harmful, depressing, and stressful, relaxing us like a steamy sauna. We feel at peace. Sports pulls us in and gives us hope, faith, and a serene yet exciting way of looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, if only for a short while. Baseball diamonds, football fields, and tennis courts are where dreams come true. It's where minds, bodies, and souls come together for a snapshot in time, often making for spectacular finishes, and long-standing memories. Personally, I can recite every champion who's ever won the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament (both male and female) for the past twenty years.

The benefits of playing sports are overwhelmingly positive. They not only help us with our physical health, but mental as well. And merely watching sometimes has the same impact, even sitting from the comfort of our favorite recliner. The stimulation through our bodies as the result of observing an impossible pass, shot, or swing seems to give us the same jolt as running a fifty yard sprint, or pressing reps from a steel dumbbell. Our heart rates soar during the final two seconds with a tied score or game-winning shot; the pure pleasure of endorphins attacking our brains can keep us from sleeping till morning; and the immense excitement of seeing a Super Bowl or World Series victory often lasts for days, creating a high better than the purest drugs.

I watched the Rangers and Tigers opening game. The two days prior had been a bit stressful and tense, so I looked forward to an innocent escape. As game time neared, I felt happier by the second. Things which had caused my mind to drift elsewhere had suddenly disappeared, like they hadn't even existed. Some might say I place a bit too much importance on athletics, but I don't think so. After all, tens of millions of viewers from all over the world just happened to be tuning in at that very same moment.

The music-filled introductions of the players and coaches began, the national anthem was sung, the anchormen made their predictions. Me, I made a nest in my chairs leather and wood. My desk sat in the distance, computer and all. Along the top were papers waiting for attention. My phone rang, but I left it alone. After all, this was my time away from the world, just me and my team about to do battle.

The first few innings went well, my body nervously changed positions every few minutes. Though I was alone tonight, I couldn't be happier, thinking how close my team was to their first World Series title. My neck and shoulders no longer ached like they did merely hours before. Joy surged through me as I watched every second play out. I felt energetic and ready to take on the world, like in the movie, "Rocky" after he fought that war in the ring, winning the gold-laced belt. The innings came and went. My heart throbbed in my chest. A knot sat deep inside my stomach. With the final pitches thrown, my city’s team claimed victory number one.

Of course, by now, my fingertips had already scrapped the ceiling.

I look at my desk and laugh. My world is back in balance.

Thank God for the gift of sports.