Being more of the artsy and emotional type, I’ve never cared much for sports. I’m the person who will be completely oblivious that a Super Bowl has occurred until weeks after the fact (although I sometimes become aware of it based on the average level of testosterone in TV commercials). I remember being excused from a question on a 10th grade geometry test because it assumed I knew the rules of football. In fact, I am still trying to figure out what a “down” is.
Of course, back in high school, I was the kind of person who was extremely proud of their lack of sports knowledge. If you told me you liked sports, I would give you a look as though you were currently in the process of molesting some sort of farm animal. That was me — except after I’d self-assuredly sneered something about sports fans being Neanderthals, I would expound at length about the latest episode of “Dragon Ball Z.”
Fortunately, like most people who don’t consider paint chips a major food group, I realize that the person I was in high school was about as mature as your typical reality television contestant. My contempt, however, has been replaced with confusion. Sure, I still don’t care for sports and don’t feel there’s anything wrong with that, but when I see people I care about huddled around a plasma TV, I have to wonder: “Why don’t I like doing that?”
High School Me would have argued it was because sports are “a stupid waste of time” and then promptly return to six straight hours of “leveling up” in a video game that primarily consisted of being murdered by crabs. Let’s face it: most hobbies are stupid wastes of time. But despite this revelation, I can never seem to care about sports and still find watching a bunch of people fighting over a ball about as exciting as professional nose-picking.
Oddly enough, I have fond memories from when I was small of my dad taking my friends and me to games at Tiger Stadium and the Palace of Auburn Hills. I remember clinging to his hands as the stadium seats dwarfed my tiny body. I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on but there seemed to be someone named Cecil Fielder whom everyone was very enthusiastic about, so I decided to be enthusiastic, too. When Cecil hit something called a “grand slam,” I was one of the first ones to stand up and cheer with my buddies.
It was the social aspect of sports that I once enjoyed, and I think a lot of their appeal is linked to this. Why else would “Super Bowl Party” be in our cultural lexicon? I’d throw my heart into watching those games — and I think that’s the reason I can’t enjoy them anymore.
I realized this when I remembered a story my dad once told me. Back in the 1960s and ’70s, there was, in my father’s words, sort of a Tigers “dynasty”. For years, the five or six of them played the same positions in the outfield. They were local celebrities. But when the Tigers traded away one of those stars, the dream team was unceremoniously broken up.
“And not two days later,” my dad told me, “there he was, playing for the other guys! And that just ruined it for me. How could I get into sports after that?”
Then it hit me: I have no say over what goes on in sports. With a video game, I can make my little dude kill crabs better. What happens in a book will be the same every time. But sports are uncertain — I can’t make the players run faster or catch better, and I’m sure as heck not rich enough to buy a team and influence its decisions. As I get older, I become more sensitive and paranoid and can no longer stand the risk of getting too involved in things I can’t change.
Which is not to say that I think your love of sports is dumb. In fact, I commend you for not being so anal that you demand control over every tiny aspect of your life. But I think an enjoyment of sports is out of the question for me because I can’t get emotionally invested in what I can’t control.
This could also be why I can’t bring myself to get too absorbed in politics, which is probably not something I should admit as an opinion columnist at the Daily, as they could cut off my column at any —
Eileen Stahl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.