The Why’d World of Sports

Well, Henson has decided that it’s cuddle time, and that my lap is the place it has to happen, so I’m stuck here until he seems satisfied that I held still long enough. I thought I might take this opportunity to discuss something that the Peanut Gallery seemed interested in from my last entry. That’s right ladies and gents, I’m talking about my ambivalence towards (hatred of?) watching sports. This isn’t about playing sports, which I readily admit I would benefit from. I played baseball until 3rd grade, and I always did pretty well in gym class. And I enjoyed it. So I think my lack of participation in sports right now is simply laziness and a general “I’m out of the loop” feeling. Nothing more than that. But spectator sports is our current focus.

I’m a twenty-something male, and as such I keep company in that demographic. And it seems that throughout my life “the guys” have always looked at me with just a hint of, “Hello? Guys like sports, get with the program,” in their eyes when I tell them I have no interest. I’ve had people ask me, “What do you do with your free time if it isn’t watching sports?” or make incredible comments like, “Life just wouldn’t be worth living without sports.” Obviously not all sports fans are that avid, but I’ve met a few. We all have. The interesting thing is that my dad was never that way, and I think that’s an important key to understanding why I feel how I do about watching sports.

My dad is one of the biggest sports fans I know. If you ever get the chance to go into his den at home, you’ll see the entire place decked out with Reds and Packers memorabilia. Those are his two favorite teams, and anyone who talks to him for ten minutes outside of church knows that. But the important thing to understand about my dad is that he keeps sports in perspective very well. He loved sports, but that never meant his son had to. He certainly introduced me to sports through his eyes and we went to quite a few baseball and football games together as I recall, but he never, not even once, approached me with a tone of “I don’t understand why you don’t like this as much as I do.” Actually, he never even made me feel like he was trying to “convert” me really. He was simply sharing something he enjoyed, and that was enough. If I loved sports, that was fine. If not, that was fine too. It was that umbrella that allowed me to do my own thinking and make my own judgments about the whole thing from an early age.

So when it seemed time, culturally speaking, for me to start enjoying sports, I looked at how other people did it. It seemed that everyone started from the point of picking a team. You pick a sport, pick a team, and then the rest of the job involves rooting for that team because you picked them and they’re your team. And it also seemed that most people picked a team based on geographical proximity, but that technically that was optional. When I looked at all the sports and all the teams, all I saw was a bunch of grown men running around with a ball, hitting it with a big stick, or piling on top of whoever had gotten hold of it. Even when I understood the rules and how the game worked, that’s all I saw. I didn’t see what would make me choose to favor one team over another. They were all trying to accomplish the same thing, and none of them really had any kind of moral high ground, so why would I favor one over another? And if I can’t favor one team or another to win, then nothing is going to draw me into the game. If the outcome means nothing, the way I get to that outcome also means nothing. I think you see where I’m going here.

The closest I ever came to really choosing a particular team was with the Packers. I lived in Green Bay for six years, and those people are nuts about their football. The citizens of Green Bay, on the whole, care about nothing but beer and football, and sometimes Catholicism on Sundays if it doesn’t interfere with The Game. But when you see why that is (besides the natural boredom of Wisconsin, except the cheese) the story changes. I said something once about the Packers that I think still holds true today for its citizens. I would have forgotten this quote long ago, but my dad has repeated it back to me enough times that I still recall it: “When your root for the Vikings, you’re rooting for a fine football team. But when you root for the Packers, you’re rooting for your neighbors.”

You might accuse me of relying on the old geographical proximity idea here, but I meant it more literally. The Packers really did just live down the block from you. Green Bay and its suburbs contained less than 200,000 people at the time the Packers won the Super Bowl back in 1997 (when they cancelled school to have a parade), so compared to most other NFL towns, Green Bay was very tightly-knit. Probably still is. My family would occasionally go over to their strength coach’s house for dinner. My sister babysat for several of them. So when you saw one of them get tackled, you would find yourself thinking, “I hope that didn’t hurt his knee. He told me that it’s been hurting lately.” That’s a categorically different kind of professional football. I can openly admit that I enjoyed that. But then after I went to college a lot of the players from those years dispersed or retired, and the coaches and administration was replaced or shifted, and now I don’t know them any better than any other team.

So that’s basically why I’m not into sports. I can say, however, that I can’t take any moral high ground on not “wasting my time with such silly things.” You see, I play video games. Quite a lot of video games actually. I just purchased my 11th Game Cube game yesterday, and I’ve got quite a few games for my Mac. And I can’t really say that loving video games is really any more productive in the end than loving sports. They both seem to be vicarious forms of experience. The only thing I can say in favor of video games is that they require active participation. If you don’t show up to watch a football game, the outcome is the same as it would have been if you had. But that’s not the case with video games. Link isn’t going to save Zelda without me. He needs my cunning wit and quick thumbs to defeat the enemy! Plus, those graphics are real purty. I think that it’s quite likely that video games fill that hole in my life that is related to testosterone and winning and being the victor; the same thing that motivates people to pick teams that are actually going to win. So I’m not claiming I’m better or anything. Just different.

I look forward to hearing your reactions. Because I’d be surprised if anyone read this whole thing. 😉

7 thoughts on “The Why’d World of Sports

  1. I have no real reaction to your choice of not watching sports, except to say that I too have seen a decline in my spectating since college. I don’t know, just to many other thing to do.

    On a more important note, Zelda on GameCube was awesome. I’ve delayed my playing through of the Master Quest so I can give Metroid some time but can’t wait to return to Zelda.

    BTW, what GameCube games do you have and/or are you favorite? I’m a new GameCube owner, with only Zelda and Metroid as of now.

  2. Well, you picked the Game Cube’s two best games right off the bat. Others may disagree. Personally, I think Legend of Zelda : the Wind Waker is the greatest game of all time. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s totally amazing.

    The other nine games I own are as follows:

    – The Simpsons : Road Rage
    – Star Fox Something-or-other
    – Animal Crossing (totally addictive and unique)
    – Super Monkey Ball
    – Pikmin
    – The Sims (my newest one)
    – Super Smash Bros. Melee
    – Lord of the Rings
    – Legend of Zelda : Ocarina of Time (ported from the Nintendo 64, got it because I pre-ordered Wind Waker)

    My favorites from that second list would have to be Animal Crossing, Pikmin, and Super Smash Bros. Games from that list to avoid? Well, they’re all pretty cool. I enjoyed Star Fox for the first few hours and then I put it down and never picked it up again. The Simpsons can be fun depending on who is around. It’s basically Crazy Taxi (if you’ve played that) with Simpsons characters. The jury is still out on Lord of the Rings.

  3. Your explanation of how your dad loved sports but didn’t force it on you seems like an apt description of evangelism.

    Obviously there’s a difference in keeping our faith vs. sports in perspective, but the idea of giving you the space to make up your own mind, while still letting people know about one of his loves is applicable.

  4. Excellent observation. I should have known a writer would pick up the subtext. 🙂 Of course, that unfortunately means I would be going to “sports hell”, doesn’t it?


  5. I agree with your assessment of watching sports and share your enjoyment of video games (different types, however).

    One point to consider, though, is that those who choose to watch sports usually do it in a social setting, i.e.watching with others, whereas, those who choose to enjoy video games tend to play against a machine, usually alone, seldom with others.

  6. Good point Dana.

    The interesting thing is that I’ve always enjoyed watching sports in highly social situations. If a friend of mine has a party where everyone is going to watch “the game” and invites me over, I’ll go, but only to be with the other people. It’s usually pretty fun.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is that all my favorite video games are semi-social. I prefer to play games that can be played over the internet with friends (or strangers) but I don’t usually like games that you’re supposed to play by yourself. One huge exception to that is the game I just finished: Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I played most of that by myself (although sometimes Steph watched) and it was the best game I’ve ever played in my life. Totally engrossing.

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