By Mark Nagi

A couple of weeks ago I met two of my college friends in Detroit for the weekend.

That’s right, the decision was made to go to Michigan. In February. This isn’t exactly a must visit location in the dead of winter.  Heck, if you look across the Detroit River, you’ll see Windsor, Ontario looking back at you. You know… Canada.

It was cold. It was windy. And it snowed.  I’m originally from upstate New York and I like the cold… but I also moved away from it so… yeah.

Why on earth would my friends fly from New York and why would I drive eight hours to a much colder climate for us to get together?

Well, the New York Rangers were playing the Detroit Red Wings. Neither team is a Stanley Cup contender. The odds are both will be left out of the playoffs. But that didn’t matter. This was a chance for the three of us to get together for the first time in more than twenty years.

Sure, I’ve seen these guys individually since then… but life and jobs and kids and marriages and distance has made it tough for all of us to be together at the same time.  Which is a shame, because back in college we’d go to Rangers games at Madison Square Garden a couple of times a year. Those are some of my best memories from that part of my life.

I know my story isn’t a rare one.

How often in your life have you stayed connected to friends (and maybe even family) because of a sporting event?  Be it Little League or golf or NASCAR, sports are an excuse to take a break from the daily monotony of life.  You don’t even have to be at the sport in person. I’ve made sure to hang out with a friend because of a soccer game on TV thousands of miles away.  And I bet you have done something similar.

Those friends you see at a Tennessee tailgate… how often to do see those folks when it isn’t football season? Unfortunately, quite often the answer is a minimal number. If you were at the 1998 or 2004 Florida games, or maybe the 1982 Alabama game, I bet you remember with whom you shared that experience.

It’s easy to come up with excuses why not to do something. I’m tired. I’m broke. I’m working. I’m busy.

Sports gives us the perfect excuse to break free from the routine and see our friends.

I don’t know what it is about sports… but there is than common bond that we hold with each other because of a game. My friends that I was telling you about? We are always connected because of the New York Rangers Stanley Cup run in 1994. That Spring they snapped a 54-year curse.  We all went to the championship parade on June 17, 1994… the same day as the O.J. Simpson White Bronco chase.  I’ve said that my life is better today because they won that championship. It’s crazy to think that way, but it’s as true a statement as I’ve ever given.

It was a terrific weekend in Detroit (you don’t read those seven words together often… Detroit isn’t nearly as lousy as its reputation). We got to hang out, have a few drinks, and watch the Rangers beat the Red Wings 1-0.  This was also the first time the three of us together actually saw the Rangers win a game in person. (There’s been discussion that I’m a jinx at MSG, so road trips seem to work better.)  We’ve already started talking about where to go next year. Maybe St. Louis? Pittsburgh?  Tampa?

The city doesn’t really matter.  It’s just the chance to catch up due to a shared interest… a chance to keep those friendships strong.

And that’s what sports gives us.