This week, my favorite baseball team—to protect its identity, let’s call it “the Blansas City Bloyals”—stumbled in a critical series against its dreaded nemesis. These losses put a serious dent in the Bloyals’ playoff hopes. Which, to many sports fans, isn’t the end of the world. There’s always next year, right?
Not to a loyal Bloyals fan. The last time I watched my team win the World Series, I was less than two months old, which is still too young to understand the infield fly rule, let alone grasp the importance of such a championship. For all I knew of the world at the time, the Bloyals probably won some major sporting event every month.
What a sucker I was then! Now I know better. Yet, I still persevere. It takes a doughty fan to cheer through so much losing.
Take, for example, the Greatest International Tournament of All Time So Far This Summer, aka the World Cup of a “game” called “soccer.” The US Men’s National Team played for a participation ribbon in a sport where referees take an estimated $283,960,000,000,000.78 in bribes each match. This corruption just shows that we Americans don’t even care enough to buy a championship like everyone else. I was the only steadfast fan in the entire bar cheering for the US til the bitter end of the tournament, right down to when Angela Merkel scored the winning goal for Germany against Argentina.
But when the Bloyals blew it, I knew I was through relying on complete strangers to bring me athletic glory. It’s just what someone’s mother always said: If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. I needed to take matters into my own hands.
The cleanest option would be to have children whose lives I could dedicate to complete and total domination of a particular sport. But that’s just what everyone expects. No element of surprise! Besides, pressuring my children into fulfilling my dreams would be selfish and wrong. I have to think of what’s right for them, and nothing would strengthen them like growing up under my triumphant shadow.
For the sake of the children, I must choose a sport and reign over it.
Baseball is my favorite sport, but I heard there have to be eight other players on the field at any given time. That introduced too many variables to my inevitable triumph. I needed an individual sport.
But skiing? Too cold. Mountain biking? Too much gravity. Golf? Too much plaid. Figure skating? Too cutthroat. Tennis?
Hmm. Tennis. No teammates to muck it up… Little risk of high-impact concussions… Next to zero flopping? British royalty attending matches? Slavic women in short skirts? “Love one, love all” as an actual possibility on the scoreboard?
This sport could become my brand-new lifelong passion! I studied Wimbledon footage and learned every technique.
Straight away, I took an old racquet and some balls out to the local courts to start my domination of the world. A bunch of old fogeys were playing round-robin doubles. After a moment admiring my warm-ups, they offered to let me slide in. A sure sign of my prowess! I politely declined, as I saw they did not have a clue what they were doing. Not one of them swept his hair aside like Federer, or grunted orgasmically like Sharapova, or picked his underwear like Nadal, or slipped and fell like Djokovic. This is the stuff champions are made of. I would never up my game by playing with such amateurs.
I’ve read that you have to work at something for ten thousand hours to be an expert. I figured I needed only about two thousand tops for tennis, because it doesn’t look that hard, and I had already learned a lot by watching it on TV for a week. At fifteen minutes a day… let’s say four days a week… plus time off for holidays and birthdays and the Super Bowl… I calculated that when I reach tennis master status, I will still be younger than Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras combined!
So I worked on my style for fifteen minutes or so, then packed up and headed home, feeling pretty good about myself.
But then the next day, I woke up SO SORE I could barely ladle gravy onto my grits. I stiff-legged it to the brewery to watch whatever sports were on tap, sip a beer, and recover.
Soon, I stopped obsessing over scores and just cheered with everyone else. I started thinking, maybe being a sports fan isn’t about winning and losing. Maybe, just maybe, it’s about participating in a communal experience. The emotional investment in a particular team or athlete unites me with a fanbase, the entire nation, and sometimes even the whole planet.
The outcome of a sporting event might have no real impact on the workings of the world, except that it is a joyous experience removed from those very workings. Sports offer a reprieve from life, while simultaneously enriching it.
After the final whistle blows, after the trophy has been hoisted and returned to its glass case, I return to my own life with rejuvenated vigor. That, I realized, is the mega-convenience of being a sports fan. It offers me all the fun of sports, but with no more effort than painting my chest.
I don’t need to waste my athletic talents on winning a sports championship. Instead, I can focus on succeeding at driving trains and digging up dinosaur bones and writing books and all those other things I’m going to do when I grow up to become rich and famous and, above all, happy.
Now excuse me while I get cracking. I’ve only got four years til the next World Cup, and soccer referees don’t come cheap.
The original piece appeared in the Durango Telegraph.