It used to be that any conversational turn towards sports would be my cue to leave a conversation. Not rudely, at least I hope not too rudely. Sweating, competitive games, and team stats just never really appealed to me.
But somehow I’ve accumulated all of these people in my life who I really do care about that love sports. They have passionate opinions about referee calls. They know all of the best players on their favorite teams. They have favorite teams!
And because I love them I really want to be able to share that excitement with them. Joy is infectious, and when a friend tells me about a book or a recent event they’re excited about, I’m excited with them. So why can’t I seem to act the same way when the Super Bowl comes around?
I guess there are a few reasons. First and foremost, I don’t know anything about sports—but I’m not smart enough to admit that.
I hate not knowing things. It drives me absolutely mad, as if not being in the loop will somehow kill me. Any inside joke I wasn’t a part of, any story that happened “before my time” needs to be explained—and instantly—so that I can be part of it too. I would probably be an excellent spy,
But I just know nothing about sports. I know that baseball has innings, that you dribble a basketball, and that goalies are badass human beings, but that’s about it. I should know better, when encountering a sports-enthralled friend, than even try to step on their turf, but I can’t help myself.
So the conversations go something like this.
Sports-enthralled-friend: “I went to a hockey game the other day.”
Me: “Oh, cool….so what is that instrument they play during games? An organ? Do you think they have an actual organ there or….”
Sports-enthralled friend: **leaves**
There’s also that part of me that has never been—and never will be—an (ahem) team player. You know in all of those movies when the guys are assembling to complete a mission, and they find their nerd character and then their gun crazy character, and then there’s the Debbie Downer who has to be convinced to sign up and sits in the corner during all of the team meetings smoking and making snarky comments?
I’m not that guy. But I want to be. That guy is cool!
What makes him cool is the (fine, I’ll admit) often misguided idea that he can do just as well by himself.
Since I’ve never enjoyed working on a team, you won’t be surprised to hear that I don’t really like group fangirling either. Or pep, or whatever people do when they cheer at a sporting event. To be honest, I’m often very perplexed by crowds at games. Why, I wonder, are they yelling profanity-filled advice to the very fit and experienced athletes who are paid a gajillion dollars a year to train and play this sport? But then, I also wonder where the organ is during hockey games. (Is it in a back room somewhere?…Or is the music recorded?)
I was explaining this to a friend once when he informed me that cheering—or jeering—at a crowd was all about group community. “We rise and fall together, we yell and cry together.” He talked about how he could see a complete stranger on the street that he would normally pass by, but if that stranger was wearing his team jersey, they were connected. They wouldn’t need to talk, but they would smile, give each other the bro-nod: that fundamental acknowledgement of mutual understanding.
This is the reaction I usually have towards people buying the same tampon brand at the grocery store (solidarity, sister), but I suspect my friend would say that isn’t quite the same thing.
There is one exception to my general apathy towards sports: the Olympics. That magical time when the sound of the NBC Olympic theme is heard once again, and Michael Phelps arises from his underwater lair. (Ba, Ba, Badum Bum Bum Bum!) The beat gets into my heart, and I spend the next few weeks rewatching YouTube videos and trying to convince myself that maybe I could still be a successful figure skater.
But when the Olympics end, as all good things must, so does my athletic fervor.
The same is not true for many of my friends, but I will do my best to be excited for the those who I love, who love their sport to pieces. They’re wonderful, and patient with me when I geek out over a recipe I’ve just tried, or share a news article I love. So I’ll go to their games and cheer their teams on, and promise to do my very best not to make snarky comments from the corner.