Opinion: I just don’t get watching organized sports

Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series, “I just don’t get it“A contrary view of a person, thing, activity, or common cultural phenomenon.


The NBA Finals are about to start, or so I’m told. It’s usually these professional sports holidays that I’m forced to admit that I’m a sports atheist.

One summer afternoon in a Brooklyn park, while I was cheering on my daughter at a softball game, another father approached me because of the hat I was wearing, a Baltimore Orioles hat. He asked me if I watched last night’s game.

I said, “No, I was an Orioles fan when I was a kid, but I don’t follow them now.”

He gamely recounted highlights of the last game that I wasn’t aware of, named players I didn’t know, got excited about the close score in the bottom of the ninth, and tried hard to communicate as if I were a fellow fan. I’m not an Orioles fan, though. I’m just an Orioles fan.

Even without the hats to indicate athletic enthusiasm, this athletic confusion has happened to me several times. Presumably because of my gender, I will sometimes make mistakes Someone who cares.

I loved going to Orioles games with my dad as a kid growing up in Baltimore, and I cherish the memory of attending my first World Series game in 1983 when I was 10 years old. But the real attraction at that time was with my father. My parents divorced when I was a young child and I was raised by my mother, so I looked to these games less for sport and more for meaningful connection. In college, the joy of going to basketball games was being there with friends and all the shared enthusiasm. When those specific experiences ended, so did my interest in these sports.

David Allan, wearing a Baltimore Orioles hat.

The association between those times and seeing one of those bands now on television will be the difference between enjoying ice cream, and then later remembering the taste of ice cream by seeing someone else eating it.

Jerry Seinfeld noted that following the team over many years, as players move in and out, is nothing more than cheering for the uniforms. “You’re actually encouraged to dress up when you go straight to it,” he said. “You stand and cheer and scream until your clothes outshine another city’s clothes.”

Cheers to washing. This sums up the absurdity I feel when I’m forced to watch sports that my kids don’t participate in (which have the same joy as watching them perform on stage or at a concert; in other words, not sports-specific).

Winning and losing in watching professional sports is a pseudo-drama, a soap opera with injuries. I don’t see any risks in the real world. By contrast, electoral contests are dramas with real implications. I’m a political guy, and I stare at the TV screen with the same intense nervousness that sports fans feel as the shot clock runs out.

The difference here, of course, is that political gains and losses cannot be easily reset at the beginning of the next season.

I am not against sports. I know that participating in them offers legitimate physical, mental, and social benefits. I enjoyed exercising. Yes, some of them are violent and cause brain injuries, and I hope they are phased out so people don’t pay to flirt with people with dementia. But I was in a boxing league when I was a kid and it was great for me—practical therapy.

Watching and caring about professional sports as an adult is something that eludes me.

At the end of a Super Bowl — an event I often skip unless I’m invited to a party — my friend Jesse cried when his hometown team lost.

I felt bad for him but I was also a little confused and worried about his feelings. This is a sport with professionals just playing a game. There’s even a pause in the middle for a song and dance. What effect, I wondered, would losing his team have on him as an adult?

So I asked Jesse recently. Why exactly did he cry as the family dog ​​died when no one died, fictional or actual, when the other city team’s uniforms won the shiny trophy instead of his city’s?

He forgot who he was talking to, and began his explanation by comparing his local team to another professional underdog. When I pressed him for more, he responded with something about happy childhood memories, a sense of investment, and how he was living on the other side of the country from his hometown at the time of that Super Bowl.

I couldn’t relate to any of it. It was like trying to make a dog appreciate literature or music or… sports. It’s not for everyone, although sometimes it seems like everyone sees the appeal except me.

I enjoy making relationships and creating community, so part of me will be happy that sports does that for me. The problem remains my lack of interest in the topic itself. If all my friends love pickleball, that doesn’t mean I’m going to be running around the nets with pizza peel paddles just so we have something to talk about.

If I could, Brooklyn’s dad and I might have become the best of friends, bonded over a shared love of the Orioles. Then later we could cry in each other’s arms when they lost the World Series.

I still have election nights, though. And if you want to come with me and feel the emotion during these competitions, you’re welcome. My wife makes delicious nachos!

Other things we don’t get: Taylor Swift, sausage

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