This may come as a shock to many of you
</sarcasm>, but I don’t like sports.
I have had to refine my opinion over the years, as I have come to be involved in things that could appear to be sport-like. So a more accurate statement would be “I don’t like team sports.”
Now I do have some experience with team sports: I tried baseball in sixth grade, and was on a soccer team somewhere around first or second grade. The fact that I spent most of my time as a goalie, keeping a book by the goalposts should not be held against me (I am a compulsive reader). I guess part of what I didn’t like was the pressure to perform, as I wasn’t very good (mostly from lack of drive and interest), and I was nice enough at heart that I didn’t want to let the rest of the team down.
But I was talking with my girlfriend the other day about how neither of us was particularly fond of sports (after all, she tells people she’s a Cubs fan to get them to change the subject), and got to thinking about why I don’t like sports. And this may be best illustrated by why I’m not a fan of that “All-American pastime” that is football.
As I’ve stated before, I’m definitely the nerd of my family. To give you an idea of what I mean, know that my dad went to college on a football scholarship and majored in business (no offense to any business majors out there. You keep the world running for us soft, air-headed creative types, and that does not go unappreciated). He and my brother often bond over whatever sport happens to be in season (usually the aforementioned football or basketball). In fact, even to this day, whenever I go over to visit them I can count on the fact that SportsCenter will end up on the television some time before I leave. Even my brother played in a kid’s basketball league (and enjoyed it!). I, on the other hand, got as much of my high school P.E. requirements waived as possible, thanks to my counselor’s family all training at my dad’s martial arts studio (yay, nepotism). I was always happier reading a book, or in later years, surfing the internet or playing video games. Even attempts to get me interested in weightlifting fell short when I tried to read a martial arts catalog when doing leg curls (it helped pass the time).
So what I’m trying to say is I fall largely outside sports culture. But just because I’m outside it doesn’t mean sports culture goes away. There is a huge expectation that not only are you interested in sports, but that you care about them, and have an opinion. It’s that expectation that rankles. It may not be as blatant now that the g33k have started reforming popular culture in their own image, but I still tend to sense an undercurrent of “you’re weird” when I mention I don’t like sports.
I just think it’s rather odd that a nation that prides itself on its virility should feel compelled to strap on forty pounds of protective gear just in order to play rugby.
—Giles, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
And sports culture is everywhere. Nearly every news show has a sports segment. Advertisements regularly wax poetic about sporting achievements. Beer commercials basically say that if you’re not downing brewskis with the guys at the local sports tavern, then you aren’t having fun (I will concede that the Real Men of Genius commercials are hilarious). It’s the implication that being a sports fan is the default, best setting.
It’s a weird feeling, being on the outside of such a big part of American culture. I mean, when I was growing up I thought of Super Bowl Sunday as the day I had no chance of getting to use the TV for video games. Sure, I might see the occasional funny commercial, but these days they’re up on Youtube the next day. Other sports, like baseball (boring), cricket (confusing), and soccer (euro-hipster) don’t bother me as much. I think it really is tied to the central role football plays in American society. I mean, it’s basically inescapable during the winter holiday season.
I will admit to some perverse pleasure from the phenomenon that is fantasy sports leagues. The stat tracking, the emotional investment, it’s basically Dungeons & Dragons for all the people who used to beat up D&D nerds in high school. And while I didn’t do much tabletop gaming in high school, I was on the chess team and went through the halls with a rolling backpack, so make of that what you will.
Man, I hope this doesn’t start a flame war with my family…