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What’s All Up in The Sports?

November 23, 2009


Why do people get so passionate over the sports?

Given last week’s cascade of fiery Facebook-status-update insults disparaging Ohio State (Chuck’s were easily the best: “GO BLUE!! BUCK THE FUCKEYES!!!!!!”; “GREEN doesn’t even matter……EVER!!!!!!”; and my personal favorite: Only in that piece of $hit state known as Ohio could a poisonous nut be a good thing. GO BLUE!!!!!”) and witnessing an HBO special on the eccentricities of OSU coach Woody Hayes (the guy hired stalkers to ensure that Michigan couldn’t spy on Ohio State’s practices and was convinced that U of M footballers had developed some fancy new footwear to give them an advantage on slippery fields), I thought it apt to broach this thorny interrogative.

Now this is coming from the emperor of the sports ignoramuses – I have no interest in watching the sports on television or listening to them on radio, and I’ve only ever been to one the sports event — a hockey match between Detroit and Anaheim. I forget who won. Or what the teams were.

Nevertheless both my father and my sister are avid hockey fans, Dad is also a fan of baseball and football, and most of my friends are enthusiasts of at least one the sport — I’ve been around and close to fans of the sports all my life, but I’m at a total loss to explain the source of their enthusiasm, much less how it excites their passions enough to make them scream at and assault inanimate objects or, in a friend of mine’s case, sever long friendships (she lives in Baltimore and, some years ago, recapped a devastating riot instigated by antsy Ravens fans).

I asked my Dad why he enjoys watching the sports once, and his response (and seeing as how he’s partaken in every sport from tennis to boxing to skeet and every ball foot to base) was that he revels in the athletes’ skills. The same goes for friends Kyle and Pat, two avid golfers who watch golf. But I’m still not convinced. As a demonstration of athletic skill, I can appreciate some of the sports’ appeal, but appreciation of the sublime, in whatever form, should not instill boiling torrents of rage among its connoisseurs.

Appreciation of the sports can’t solely be aesthetic or else it’d have far fewer riots and far more public endowments. Likewise, I have yet to see an art critic paint “Seurat” across his belly, jabber like a baboon at La Grande Jatte, and brandish a plush figure of Renoir impaled on a pitchfork.*

Whatever the reason for their devotion, the idea of championing a fluky gang of yokels regardless of whether they win or lose is bizarre; the fan seems less an aesthete and more an ideologue.

vietnamWhat’s more, the criteria for selecting a favorite team seems pretty arbitrary; in most cases it’s based on proximity – everybody roots for the home team. But that’s a pretty flimsy excuse for violent fanaticism — to that end the sports appear to be little more than crypto-Nationalism.

And so it’s no coincidence every article I’ve read on Nationalism cites the Olympics: Both exhibit unyielding loyalty to vaguely defined notions of a collective identity; both share a sense of pride independent of individual accomplishment; and both display antagonistic, if not outright violent, attitudes toward “foreigners.” A lot like voting.

All three (and voting) are pretty repulsive – and while the sports should be commended for not often slipping into mass genocide, my Baltimore friend’s description of drunken Ravens fans “beat[ing] up, [stealing] from, and sexually harass[ing] Colts fans on the streets of Baltimore,” is pretty damning; “We even found out that our neighbors were involved in a barroom brawl after the game Saturday night,” is just scary.

*As I saw a certain Red Sox fan do to a plush Tiger a few years ago when Boston played Detroit.


7 Responses to “ What’s All Up in The Sports? ”

  1. Ace on November 23, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Thanks for calling them “the sports.” And also, whomever lands you as a mate will likely be eternally grateful. I, for one, am a semi-hot, semi-smart gal, and I’d rather be with a public nose-picker than a fella who spends hours on the couch watching a mind-numbing exchange between any two teams. That said, I like to see a good fight if I’ve had a few lagers (not live, though – I’ve never been a fan of the chance of receiving any blood spatter). I also like live soccer and hockey, but only if I am a personal friend of player. I do consider myself truly blessed to have wed a man who neither watches sports nor plays videogames, and he is likewise amply rewarded.

  2. anncine on November 23, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    I have never been into sports, but now have a great fondness and appreciation for tennis. This has stemmed from my enjoyment in watching Jackson run his sweet ass around the court.

  3. Sara on November 23, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    I consider Beer Pong a fantastic sporting event to watch and I believe you take part in that. The kudos and insults you kids exchange are nothing sort of spectator-tacular. So, put that sport in your pipe & smokey it.
    Ps. Detroit won that Hockey game we attended.
    Pps. Go Wings!

  4. Mark on November 23, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    I have to agree, I’ve never understood how normally calm, educated people can become violent raving lunatics over what they believe was a bad call. You never see me at the ball game on Sunday, but then you wouldn’t know cause your not there either.
    Beer Pong is entertaining mainly because of the self humiliation involved.

  5. Jackson on November 23, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    “I have yet to see an art critic paint “Seurat” across his belly, jabber like a baboon at La Grande Jatte, and brandish a plush figure of Renoir impaled on a pitchfork.”


  6. Beau on November 24, 2009 at 1:33 am

    After having reading this, I have come to the realization that I am one of the raving lunatics who take sports events way too seriously. Never fought anyone and I have seen what has happened when it goes too far.

    I would also be one of the first people to say I look like an idiot. I think that mainly has to do with the amount of alcohol that I drink prior to most sporting events. I have found that when sober I could not care as to whether that ref made a bad call. Surprising since I would think that alcohol would hinder the ability to make a good decision in regards to the ref’s call.

    I would also have to agree that Beer Pong is the best sport ever to watch and to play.

  7. geoffrey on November 24, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Though I don’t want to disagree with the esteemed father, R. Almirall, I think if one really watches sports for the display of masterful skill, he becomes something of the *opposite* of a fan, provided a fan is one with a parochial or otherwise interest in the success (or failure) of a player or team in every circumstance.