XLVI – Come On, Be a Good Sport

There is a saying that goes something like “American as apple pie and baseball.” Actually, there are several American pastimes I could go into (like how Americans overeat and invert mealtimes), but that’s possible fodder for another post🤷‍♂️. Americans seem enamored with sports. Well, the whole world has a fascination, almost a fetish, for sports. Many countries love soccer (their football); various countries like baseball. The US, while it loves baseball for roughly eight months out of the year, also has a fascination for hockey, but when you talk about basketball and football, holy shit.

Can someone please explain why there are people—mostly men, but there are the crazy fanatical women out there—who are extremely fanatical, nay, obsessed with sports? Like, during a televised game, they’re screaming their heads off, as if they were at center court or center field. Each one of these sports-crazed maniacs have their favorite team and one they absolutely despise (i.e., “go Steelers! Denver sucks!” or “go Kings go! Fuck the Ducks!”). Equally true is their love-hate relationship with certain players: the star quarterback, awesome pitcher, best guard. Then there’s Tom Brady. Almost everyone hates Tom Brady. The only ones who seem to like him are Patriots fans. Whatever.

Anyway, people tend to go nuts over whatever game their team plays in. Many a discussion takes place in the workplace or in the home or bar about x or y team or player alpha or beta. As for me, like I said, I don’t get all the hype and hysteria. Imagine that. Me, an adult male, 46 years old, and I don’t really give a rat’s ass about sports. I know that there are others like me out there, but we represent an infinitesimally small percentage of the population. According to one poll I read about, in 2013-14, a whopping FIVE PERCENT of men aged 35-55 (my age group) didn’t watch sports at all. So that means that if there are about 40 million men in the country in this age range, then 38 million of them were watching come kind of sporting event. That makes me one out of 2,000,000. With over 300 million people in the US, that’s miniscule. It almost makes me feel like some kind of weirdo, an alien or an outcast.

This doesn’t mean I’ve never watched sports. I can remember occasionally listening to a Kings hockey game on the radio when I was a kid, or caught a Dodger game in like the 19th inning at 01:00 one night—hell, there were pitchers playing in the outfield. I’ve even gone to a couple of games at the stadium a long time ago. World Cup Soccer (US vs Brazil in 1984, for example); Super Bowl (Seahawks’ embarrassing loss to the Patriots…if you’re at the 1-yard line, why wouldn’t you just run the ball in? Stupid!). I occasionally watch, but it’s not something I do religiously. Growing up, I didn’t have the sports influence that others have. PE classes were among my least favorite in school. I couldn’t do a pull-up, I never really learned to swim (still can’t for the most part), and I was absolutely terrible at any game. Sports never were, and still aren’t, my thing. Sure, in school, you’re ridiculed if you’re a young male who dislikes sports. Because of this, I was usually chosen last for teams. You know, the old “I guess I’ll pick him, because I have no other choice” thing, accompanied by the rolling eyes. Hell, if some had their way, I would’ve never been chosen and left along the sidelines. Kids like me were nicknamed “target”, because I’d be the first choice to be taken out of a game, simply to make things more competitive. Another reason for my disinterest in sports: I never was a competitive person. I just wanted to go to school, learn what needed to be taught, do what I had to do, and leave. I didn’t care for competition, and hated confrontation (which usually went along with competition). To this day, I don’t like confrontation. In school, I went to great lengths to avoid a confrontation with anyone. I always kept to myself, except with a very select few. Even then, I had very tall walls that just couldn’t be torn down. Hell, those walls still exist. My social “shell” is virtually impenetrable. I absolutely and seriously don’t know how to open myself up like so many extroverts can do. I’m not the “wear my heart on my sleeve” type of person. I am extremely guarded. In fact, just writing this post is difficult. It is taking a lot out me to not click the little x in the corner and exit without saving.

Anyway, I got off on a tangent there. Back to the subject at hand. Where was I? See, there I go getting sidetracked. I was terrible at sports, back then, didn’t get the rules or how to play for the most part. I knew the basics, but even today, I can’t get technical about the minutia of any given sport. I used to like to listen to the poetry that was the play-by-play of announcer greats such as Vin Scully, Bob Miller and Chick Hearn (“this game’s in the refrigerator; the door’s closed; the lights are out; the butter’s getting hard; the eggs are cooling; the jello’s jiggling” or “no harm, no foul; no blood, no ambulance”). It always fascinated me how they could talk so fast and keep up with the game, not missing a beat on which player was whom, who did what play or what the hell was going on.

One thing I have wondered: is the love, or obsession, for sports something that is in the DNA, and you just do? Or is it taught, learned from parents watching sports? Or is it a combination of both?

Another part of this sports obsession I don’t understand is how soon this competitive aspect is taught. You have your professional teams (NBA, NFL, NHL, etc), which usually get paid an obscene salary. Then there’s the college sports. Do they even get paid? I know they have to maintain their grades to be able to play. I mean, holy shit, college sports is almost as big a business as the pros. Some universities pride themselves on their sports teams, if nothing else. Then there’s the high school-level sports. The parents of some of these teen athletes can be just as vicious, if not more so, than the pro sports spectator. And some of these said parents, good god. Some of them sound like a freaking drill sergeant rooting for their kids. I get that many of these high school athletes like to participate, but why obsess about it? It’s not like most of these people will ever go pro. Most of them will go into some kind of career totally unrelated to the sport they played. Does it look good on a résumé? Do potential employers see the former quarterback and think they’ll be a good fit based on that? Is having played [insert name of sport here] some kind of benefit on a job application? I honestly am curious about that.

As I said, I don’t understand the fanaticism, since it was never in my upbringing. But hey, you love the Steelers or even the Bengals (I don’t know why you would like the losingest team in the NFL ever🤷‍♂️, but hey, you do you, man), enjoy yourselves. Root for your teams, hate the opposing team’s players. Enjoy your games. Just remember, even with any differences in opinion you may have, be safe and be well.

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