Sunday, May 22, 2011
Crying coaches, flaming cars and weeping elderly: a non-sports fan ruminates about professional sports
I've never been a sports fan. Never really been a fan of anything competitive in nature, well save for my fleeting thoughts about taking my bowling skills pro, and competitive eating because really, if you can eat 59 hot dogs in 12 minutes (current record) then you need a ribbon, or a medal. I can get behind San Francisco's "BYOBW"- Bring Your Own Big Wheel Race, which simply put, is a race where grown adults purchase and stylize, "pimp out" or bedazzle the crap out of a child's Big Wheel bike, then proceed to ride the bike down a very steep, very curvaceous hill till A. A hippy gets run over or B. A lone mighty Big Wheel remains functional and ready to roll while all the others had crashed and burned. Well, there's no burning but those insane San Franciscan's sure do crash a great deal during the race.
Sports just never appealed to me on any level. My parents tried their best to sculpt my brother and I into well rounded young kids, entering us both into various little leagues. The first one was a soccer league and our team was called the Strikers. We were terrible. So terrible in fact, that not only did we never win a single game, but at the end of one game we returned to the bleachers to find our coach crying over his frustration in conceding to the reality that we wouldn't, or maybe couldn't, win a game without a parent paying a referee off. I don't know if there's laws against that kind of thing, but it would have been a nice gesture.
The next league I found myself in was a baseball league. I disliked baseball a great deal more and naturally my dislike for the sport was apparent in my approach to how i played the game. To be honest, I was afraid of the ball. I liked under hand baseball. There's less chance of injury and more for emasculated glory in the name of avoiding a line drive to the face. The coaches knew and acknowledged i was being forced into playing the game, so they agreed to use me as little as possible, unbeknownst to my parents. I appreciated this act of acquiescence tremendously though there was an unforeseen draw back to being voluntarily benched. One of the coaches, an older guy named Bob, wore these unacceptably short shorts that all but coaxed his gray hair adorned, flesh toned, deflated prune-like testicles out of one side of his shorts. I have to assume that at some point, probably in the fifties or sixties, some woman or, to be fair man, was very satisfied with Bob. I however, felt that Bob's bench-side attire was better suited for a swingers club or perhaps in a bar where Bob could go-go dance for other geriatric baseball enthusiasts.
Is it the sports fan instance on using possessive's when referring to their team's exploits? That's part of it. When you're referring to what two groups of men accomplished or failed to accomplish as the case may be, in an arena far, far away, you can't logically insert yourself into that scenario no matter how many jersey's, ball caps, pairs of underwear festooned with your teams logo (tell me they don't make them in men's sizes cause you know they do). When you say "we" did anything, what you mean is "Kobe lost the game, while I had a Hot Pocket and watched the game at home." Let's say I came to you and was talking about R.E.M. and I proceeded to speak of their upcoming tour. And in the midst of the conversation I begin to talk of how "we might tour Europe but we really need to focus on our Stateside fans because we never really regained traction in the U.S. after Automatic For the People". You'd say I needed to be medicated. How is this any different?
And the players? They don't know you. They'll let you park their cars and serve them drinks, but personally they don't know you and they don't want to. I met Michael Stipe and expected a flurry of high fives, chest bumps, numerous "How ya been sweeties". I got an awkward man, in odd eye glasses, in an expensive suit, who simply said "Hello, I'm Michael". I thought, hell yeah you are. You're Michael Mothertrucking Stipe. Co-creator of college rock, singer for one of the best god damned American rock bands in history, giver of hope to rapidly balding men everywhere. I said hello also, then proceeded to take the worst photo that could only be compared to when Ralphie meets Santa then blows his chance to seal the deal on the BB gun in terms of how terrible that photo looks. In it I look as if I was stranded on a desert island and lived off of an endless supply of Little Debbie cakes. It was a matter of the angle, not that I had just let myself go and looked to beef up my chin count.
Also, there's a level of emotional investment that sports fans extend to sports that is mystifying. I saw a documentary about the curse of the Red Sox where it was mentioned that the elderly would make pilgrimages to the graves of their loved ones to tell them about how the "Sox" were doing in the season. I can't imagine (if there's a little one in the room give em a dollar and tell them to wait for the ice cream man.....good? Ok.) that the deceased give a shit about how the Red Sox are doing simply because, well, they're dead.
Which brings me to the flaming cars, which yes, I realize is not a customary practice at sporting events. Just sporting events in areas where people like to engulf things to express their discontent with the outcome of the evenings baseball, basketball, football, ping pong? (it could happen) game. Again, back to the R.E.M. analogy. If they forgot to play "It's the end of the world as we know it" would I walk up to the first vehicle I saw and light it on fire? Probably not. Then again, I think the custom is to first turn the car over, then ignite it and R.E.M. fans just don't have the upper body strength, even in mob-form, to turn a car over.
But there is a catch to all my anti-sports leanings. If you're team is composed of unequivocal losers (i.e. the Red Sox for the better part of the last century, and the Cubs since baseball was created) then I want you to win. I think every one should get their day to shine, that one triumphant moment where all the efforts and losses and doubts coalesce into an endless ticker tape parade of confetti, congratulatory booty and Jager bombs. I watched a little bit of each World Series the Red Sox won and I thought "Well, good for them." And I hope the Cubs get theirs one day as well.
So what was it that killed the zeal of sports for me? I can't say it ever existed. But Bob's uncontainable testicles, weeping coaches and all those flaming cars in Los Angeles didn't help. But if wearing a clown wig paired with a painted face while holding a sign exclaiming "Brett Favre, you broke my heart" make the flames in your heart burn deeper, brighter with a slight hue induced by light beer coupled with hot dogs, then really, who am I to begrudge you? I just toured Europe with R.E.M.