This weekend, runners and walkers from all over Genesee County, Michigan and the world will gather together for the 43rd Annual HAP Crim Festival of Races. There’s something energizing about the event, which draws approximately 50,000 people to Flint each year—and you don’t have to wear a race bib to experience it. If you’ve ever stood along the 10-mile-long blue line to cheer on friends, family and even strangers, you know exactly what I mean.
Sports tend to have that effect on people. Just look at the Flint City Bucks. The pre-professional soccer team only recently took up residence at Kettering University’s Atwood Stadium. Yet, when they won the USL League Two’s national championship earlier this month, they did so in front of a crowd of more than 7,100 fans. In a YouTube video showing the team lifting the trophy into the air, you can feel the cheers in the background. It’s pretty cool.
A big part of that feeling can be attributed to the camaraderie and community found in being a sports fan. According to a study published in a recent issue of the scholarly journal Communication & Sport, the social aspect of sharing victory with others can lead to a self-esteem boost. At the other end of the spectrum, “for fans of the losing team, sharing the pain may have protected them from losing self-esteem,” says Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, co-author of the study.
So, for example, locals who attended watch parties for the 2016 Summer Olympics likely experienced greater highs when Flint-native Claressa Shields became the first American boxer to win consecutive Olympic gold medals.
If you’re looking for a team to rally behind, you’re in luck. Whatever your preferred sport, Flint & Genesee delivers. In addition to the Bucks, the city is also home to the Flint Monarchs, one of four professional teams to compete in the Global Women’s Basketball Association (GWBA). Likewise, the Flint Firebirds—one of just three American teams in the competitive Ontario Hockey League (OHL)— is currently gearing up for its home opener on Sept. 28.
As a former varsity basketball coach at Flint Powers High School, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our local high school teams. After all, youth sports can be an especially powerful unifying force for community members. This explains, in part, why thousands of fans attend the Vehicle City Gridiron Classic at Atwood Stadium each year.
Now in its third year, the event, to be held Aug. 29-30 at Atwood Stadium, marks the start of the high school football season. Participating teams include the Carman- Ainsworth Cavaliers, Goodrich Martians, Grand Blanc Bobcats, Lakeville Falcons, Midland Dow Chargers, North Branch Broncos, Port Huron Big Reds and Powers Chargers. Tickets are now available at each of the schools and will also be sold at the box office on game days. I hope to see you there!
Tim Herman is CEO of the
Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.