By Orrin Farries
Love has been called a battlefield, and sport is certainly a battlefield. As much as sport is divisive and the fanaticism over what colour of laundry you cheer for has often spilled over into violence in its many forms, sport is as much about coming together as it is about standing apart.
In the long and well-documented history of sports, there have been many moments that have shown the audience that beyond the battle over a ball (or a puck), there is a deep-seated love for the sport that prevails.
Here is my list of the best moments of love in sport. Without further ado, let the game of love begin.
1. Tom Brady kissing his son on the mouth (2018)
When you google search “father-son mouth kiss,” the first three pages are forums questioning whether it’s okay to do so, undoubtedly by bashful fathers or weirded out sons – and Tom Brady. While on a massage chair getting treated for one of his many postseason forays for football’s greatest prize, Brady’s son leans over and gives his pops a smooch that lasts an eternity in 1.7 seconds. Is it okay for a father and son to share a kiss on the mouth? I don’t know, is it okay to win seven Super Bowls and be the greatest quarterback of all time? Next.
2. The entire length of the movie “Love and Basketball” (2000)
So wholesome, so pure. The love of the game becomes the love for one another. This movie came out at the dawn of the 21st century, and due to its marrying of two of life’s greatest joys, love and sports, it is not a far-cry to deem it a timeless sports and romance movie.
3. LeBron winning the NBA Finals with the Cavaliers (2016)
“CLEVELAND, THIS IS FOR YOU!” Has there ever been a moment of more pure elation between a man and the city that he loves? LeBron’s relationship with Cleveland has all the makings of a storybook romance. Fledgling love, a stage of jilted rejection (“The Decision” in 2010), envy and jealousy (The Heatles), a homecoming, further tribulation, and finally, confirmation of their unity.
4. Tom Brady trying to get a high-five from his teammates (2000-Present)
What is love without misery? Tom Brady has commanded the respect of his teammates since first hoisting the Lombardi trophy but has not always been on the receiving end of their love. The empty feeling of having been left hanging so many times has sent Tom Brady into a passionate rage to win as many Super Bowls as it takes to earn five fingers of recognition from his teammates in the form of high-five.
5. Gareth Thomas, iconic Welsh rugby player, comes out (2009)
“I don’t want to be known as a gay rugby player; I am a rugby player, first and foremost. I am a man.”
These were the words of Gareth Thomas upon his coming out in 2009, a year before he would hang up his boots from the game of professional rugby. One of Wales’ most capped players, and 14th on the all-time try-scoring list, Thomas’ coming out was significant in many ways. First and foremost, it was a moment of pure self-love for Thomas, who undoubtedly felt relieved to no longer have to keep his sexuality a secret from the community that he held dearest. Secondly, it helped open up the world rugby community at large to greater acceptance.
6. Tom Brady and Father Time (2016-Present)
The general perception of the athletic prime is that it occurs sometime after the age of 30 and before the age of 35, that the coalescence of wisdom with age and youthful vigour is spent by the time an athlete reaches the ripe old age of 40. For Tom Brady, his relationship with father time is the kind where open kissing is the norm, and conventional wisdom does not figure into the relationship. From ages 36-43, Tom Brady has had a career that merits a trip to the Hall of Fame, all during a time when it was more likely to see him in Florida for retirement, not for more glory on football’s biggest stage.
7. Alexandra Thomas and Scott Jones, the Vancouver Riot Romantics (2011)
While Canucks fans in Vancouver sought out to destroy their hometown over losing the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins, Thomas and Jones were famously photographed giving peace (and love) a chance while the rest of Vancouver woke up having chosen violence.
8. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski
This bromance transcends the conventions of traditional friendship and teammate camaraderie. When Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. switched up laundry after a falling out with his prior team, he roused his running partner Robert James Gronkowski out of retirement. Brady and Gronk got the band back together and connected on two touchdowns to put a crescendo on their opus of postseason scoring. Brady and Gronkowski’s 13 postseason touchdowns are the most by any duo in NFL history. Better bros, there have never been.
9. Charles Barkley’s All-Star Kiss with Dick Bavetta (2007)
In the wake of the NBA’s awareness that there are indeed players in their league who ‘play ball for the other team’ (?), at the 2007 All-Star game, hall of famer Charles Barkley participated in a race with retired NBA referee Dick Bavetta. This included a hilarious stumble at the finish and a smooch on the lips with the elderly Bavetta as a sign of mutual affection. This came just after then NBA commissioner, David Stern, in response to former star player Tim Hardaway admonishing ‘the gays,’ called it “not an NBA problem.” Barkley’s gesture was powerful for its ‘fuck you’ attitude to the commissioner’s negligence and set an example of acceptance that most people wouldn’t have expected from the legendary former player.
10. Tom Brady and the Super Bowl (2000-Present)
What more iconic duo can you think of? They say it’s hard to reach the top of the mountain again after making the summit once. Tom Brady believes that there ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, to keep him from getting to the Lombardi trophy awarded to the best team in all of football.
It has been said that relationships find their limit of happiness at seven years but based on Brady’s elation upon receiving his 7th championship and 5th Super Bowl MVP, he and the championship trophy are not likely to experience the dreaded seven-year itch.
This Valentine’s day, when thinking of all the love in the world of sports and the world at large, it is reassuring to know that there is a love so pure between the game of football and its greatest ever player. Through thick and thin (see: down 28-3 in the Super Bowl), Touchdown Tom Brady’s love for the game is a love that keeps coming back again and again, and yet again four more times after that. That’s love.