Tuesday, April 27, 2010

RTT: What I Understand about Sports, Part I


I'm participating in "Random Tuesday Thoughts," a thing that happens on The Un Mom.  It's like a sport.  You can play too, by clicking on the graphic above and doing what Keely tells you to do.

I've been thinking about sports quite a bit lately, ever since my testosterone-fueled playdate last week.  Of course, in that post I ran with the stereotype of guys as sports-crazed knuckleheads and suggested that I was more sensitive and evolved than most dudes.  Or something like that.

But then I had this great idea for an outing for the Dad Group: disc golf!

"But," you might say, "you're a prissy bookworm who blanches at the thought of being crushed in competition by alpha males, and would prefer to go to the public library for a performance by a troupe of renaissance puppeteers."

First of all, how dare you.    

Secondly, disc golf isn't really a sport (even though my former neighbor defined himself as a professional disc golfer)--it's just walking around a nice park, usually stoned, and tossing frisbees.  So there's no real shame in losing.  You can always blame the chronic.  (In my case, it would be legitimate to blame the chronic because if I smoked any I would have a panic attack and have to go to the ER.)

Thirdly, I actually like doing sports.  It's just watching them that I find insufferable.  In fact, the sports I am (or was) pretty good at, skiing and cycling, have garnered me lots of street cred among my buddies on construction sites over the years.  NASCAR fans as a rule really appreciate the idea of dropping a couple hundred dollars a day to swoosh through the snow on thousand-dollar skis; and they love nothing more than a group of skinny guys with shaved legs* and neon spandex slowing down traffic on country roads or clogging up their ATV trails and spooking the deer they've been stalking.

I have a number of theories about why a person would waste a perfectly good day watching football (or whatever); but the one that might best explain why I never got into spectating is the idea of identifying with a group by supporting a team and demonizing its rivals.

My parents never lived anywhere close to a town with a professional sports team when they were growing up.  The only team that they cared about was the Montana Grizzlies, who represented their alma mater and who, when we lived in Europe and even in pre-satellite TV America, were strictly mythological as far as I was concerned.  I remember reading a book called Fight Like a Falcon in the third grade, which made me identify with the Atlanta Falcons for a while, even though I lived in Germany and didn't really know where Atlanta was.  I tried to like the Washington Redskins, the Bullets, and the Capitols when we lived in the D.C. area, but I would lose interest in a team as soon as they lost a game, so these guys did not make it easy for me to become a fan.  Then I moved around some more, lived in a bunch of perfectly lovely towns and cities toward which I developed great affection, but about whose sports teams I never gave a rat's ass.

The closest I came to caring about a team was when I was in college at UVA.  During my last year there, a bunch of my friends (some of whom I think actually cared about football) convinced me to start going to games with them.  This wasn't too difficult because, as is the case at many colleges I'm sure, booze was a major component of the sporting tradition.  (UVA is very wrapped up in tradition.  Here are a few of the more ridiculous ones:
  • You can't say "campus."  It's "grounds."
  • Say "Mr. Jefferson" instead of "Thomas Jefferson."  Say it a lot.
  • Don't say "frat."  If you call your fraternity a "frat," what do you call your country?  Hmmm?
  • Don't say "freshman," "sophomore," etc.  Say "first year," "second year"... )
The traditions surrounding football games dictate that you wear a blue blazer if you are male, and a Laura Ashley dress if you are female.  You should get snot-hanging, knee-walking drunk at all games regardless of your gender; but most especially on the last home game of your fourth year, during which you are obliged to drink a fifth of liquor (the "fourth year fifth") by the time the game ends.  Emergency rooms are very busy on these days. 

My friends and I were on board with the drinking part of the tradition, but not so much the other details.  Another tradition in which we took part, kind of, was the singing of "The Good Old Song" when our team scored.  It's sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne:

"We come from old Virginia,
Where all is bright and gay [at this point the stands would resound with a gleeful "NOT GAY." Except for the section where my friends and I stood, which futilely countered, "YES GAY!]
Let's all join hands and give a yell
For good old UVA" [thereafter follows the official chorus of yelling, at which points my friends and I would scream "gaygaygaygaygaygaygay!]"

So good old UVA had a pretty good old season that year.  That might have been the year that they (I guess I'm supposed to say "we"?) were briefly ranked number one in the country.  We may have even beaten our most hated rivals, VA Tech.  I can't really remember.  But then I graduated, and even though I lived in Charlottesville for another eight years, I never went to another game.  I didn't go to school there anymore, I didn't know any of the players, and I certainly didn't want to identify with the well-dressed college kids lying in pools of their own vomit any more than I had when I was a student.

If I find it hard to identify with the athletes and fans of the school I attended, I find it much more difficult to become invested in a team of ridiculously rich, poorly-behaved numbskulls who supposedly represent the greater metro area of wherever I live.  But I know plenty of smart people who are passionate about the teams from places they live, used to live, or even seemingly picked at random.  Some of these fans are people who rail against Corporate America, poverty, income disparity, gender norms, the cult of celebrity, lack of role models for kids, waste of public monies, and so on.  I have some more theories to explain what's going on with them, but I'll save them for another Tuesday.

Random picture of the twins as snowperson and elf:

*I have not been "skinny" since the eighth grade, and I never could get up the nerve to shave my legs.


  1. Liar! I have SEEN your shaved legs. (Or leg. And so what if it was surgically mandated? Still totally counts.)

  2. Oh my goodness, that is the cutest picture of twins that I have ever seen! So adorable, and gave me a laugh. :)

  3. You don't even have to guessApril 27, 2010 at 9:44 PM

    Ah, memories. Remember when we snuck a beer bottle filled with vodka into a UVA football game? Tradition, right?

    The girls are adorable! And I had no idea you'd stayed in C'ville for 8 years after graduation.

    I don't understand pro sports because I just can't get engaged with something so far removed from me. I can appreciate skills, but soccer (Euro football) and male gymnastics and swimming are the only ones with any visual appeal. See if you can take a wild guess why.

    So, umm, did you ever get anywhere with the disc golf? You kind of got off topic. I like Frisbee lots. It's a great sport, especially when you're not high and your dog doesn't give a crap about chasing the disc.

  4. I only played disc golf once. It was at this heavily wooded park and my disc never went anywhere near the intended target. It lodged itself in briars, trees, and finally (thank gawd) in the river. Bye bye disc. I'm not up for any sport that might cause bruising or, horror or horrors, labored breathing. Which... pretty much rules out everything.

    Adorable picture!

  5. Beer drinking is a sport right? I'm in as long as it's German beer! Babies are too adorable!

  6. I don't get into football unless the Longhorns are playing lol that's it for me. The girls are too precious in that pic!

  7. Oooh, those kids are cute! I've never heard of disc golf. Must be something you folks out west thought of.

    I can't watch sports, either. Snore fest. I have a theory on how one should handle a football game, if required to watch. 1st quarter- pay attention. Lots of stuff happens in the 1st quarter. 2nd quarter, nap. If something exciting happens the yelling will wake you. 3rd quarter snack. 4th quarter, pay attention. Again, this is one where what happens matters.

    PB used to shave his legs when he biked competetevly (how the hell do you spell that?). He has some damn fine legs, though.

  8. Isn't being stoned one of the rules for disc golf?

  9. Lauren--I forgot about my one shaved leg. But I didn't shave it myself, so it doesn't count.

    Amber--I know. I'm surrounded by cuteness every day. It's making me very soft.

    Paul--Did we ever go anywhere *without* a bottle of vodka? I remember going to the study group before the Jesus and Mary Chain show with Big Gulp cups of vodka cokes. Yeah--I appreciate skill, athleticism, all that stuff; but the waiting in between those moments is interminable. Disc golf is next Tuesday! (Maybe.)

    Other--I can only imagine what an epic your disc golf experience must have been! I'm sure the woods were teeming with hillbillies and rabid possums too!

    Thanks for appreciating the cuteness, Frau and Kathy. And beer drinking is totally a sport. Gemutlichkeit!!

    Mama Badger--that is excellent advice! My legs are pretty fine too. Long, slender and girly. I just wanted to avoid getting catcalls on the construction site.

    Captain--Being stoned is indeed part of the rules, but they usually don't do pee tests unless its league play. Just affecting a glazed look suffices.

    Shan--Same thing. "Disc golf" is preferred these days; I think because people don't even use Frisbee brand flying discs.


Don't hold back.


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