After a long, hard week working in the tire factory, it is finally Friday. I could not be more happy for the weekend. I just got paid, I have two days off, I just got the news I have been waiting for about a new job, and the Eagles are playing the Titans on Sunday.
So, guess what I will be doing on Sunday afternoon. I will help you. I may be reading a book, walking around the mall, or wasting time on Facebook. I will not be watching the Eagles game. I also will not be watching the Saints, Patriots, Bills, Cowboys, Jaguars or Steelers. What do I have against these teams? Nothing. I just don’t watch football. What do I have against football? Nothing. I just have no interest. None.
I have never had any interest in football. Or baseball. Or basketball. Or any other sport. I just don’t care. Sports do nothing for me. When I see those big emotional documentaries on Babe Ruth, Joe Namath, or Mickey Mantle, or footage of the Immaculate Reception, I can’t help but think, “It’s just a game.” What’s the big deal?
I didn’t grow up in a sports family. We didn’t watch the games on TV or go play baseball in the yard. I did play Little League when I was in grade school. I even tried out for basketball when I has in the fourth grade, but even then it wasn’t because I loved sports. I did it because,…well, it’s what my friends were doing. I even had fun playing baseball in the summer, but it’s because I was a kid and I was playing. Playing is what kids like to do, but I would have been just as happy playing anything.
As an adult, I really don’t understand the fascination with a bunch of guys who throw a ball around. I am not saying anything against sports fans. They enjoy it and that’s great; I just don’t understand it. A man goes to see his favorite team play. Let’s say the Rams, since I am so close to St. Louis. There are some good plays, some lousy calls by the refs, and in the end the Rams win (or lose). Now, I understand the entertainment of watching the game, but when it’s over, it’s over. The number went up in either the W or the L column. What difference does it make? If they keep winning and make it to the Super Bowl, even win it, what difference does it make? Whether they win or lose, they will be back again to play next year. To be so into the game that arguments break out in bars and living rooms over whether the coach should be kept or which players should be traded is beyond me.
However, there is one thing about many sports fans that makes me want to take up cage fighting so I can make them tap out. Why is it that if I don’t know the name of the Bears’ quarterback or the shortstop for the Pirates in 2006, I am suddenly not a man, at least, not one from this planet? I have tolerated the endless discussions about the rivalry between Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon with my best smile, but as soon as I cannot participate in the conversation with any knowledge on the matter, I feel like I am being shunned. “You don’t follow NASCAR? What do you do on Sundays?” The next question is the worst one. “So what sport DO you follow? Football, baseball, golf, soccer, MMA fighting, dodge ball, competitive bass fishing?” It is unheard of that I don’t follow any sport. Once I confess this dirty little secret, there is usually several minutes of silence while they try to think of what we could possibly talk about if sports is off the table.
I first noticed this prejudice in high school. Near the end of my senior year, my school hosted a Sports Appreciation meal. It was a rather simple affair. The school ordered several dozen pizzas for the sports participants of the school. Of course, the basketball and baseball players were all there. I walked in with my team and the partiers of the room stopped and stared. “What are you guys doing here?” You see, the team I was on was the Scholastic Bowl. We competed against other schools in academic challenges.
As far as we were concerned, we should be part of the meal. What we did was a sport. We would compete with 5-person teams and two alternates. There was a countdown timer and we kept score (unlike cheerleaders, who were at the meal). Our matches had officials (like referees), we practiced three times a week and traveled to our different meets. It was very competitive. Sounds like a sport to me.
We hadn’t even been invited to participate, but our coach found out about it and decided we should crash the party. We got a lot of dirty looks and nasty comments, but we didn’t mind. We just wanted the pizza. Maybe if we threw balls at the opposing teams while they answered we would have gotten more respect.
So, this Sunday, if you invite me over to watch the game and I say, “No, thank you,” know that it is nothing against you. It’s just that if you want me to sit through three hours of sports talk and watching people yell at a TV then you need to have some really good snacks.