I’ve never been a fan of team sports. Not one lick. I appreciate the athleticism and skill required to play on a professional team and can usually find some pleasure in simply watching such fine-tuned bodies in motion, but I couldn’t care less who wins. Intellectually and socially, I get why people rally behind a team, but my complete lack of competitive spirit makes the whole thing feel silly.
Growing up, there were plenty of evenings and weekends tinged by a game on tv, but if my groans of boredom failed to get the channel changed, I usually gave up and did something else. My high school must have had all the usual teams, but I never went to a single game. In fact, the only games I’ve ever attended in person were in Chicago while I was in elementary school: A baseball game (Sox or Cubs, I can’t remember) and a Notredame football game. I remember being very hot at one and very cold at the other. That is all.
Fast forward three decades to the moment when I accidentally made plans to visit Seattle on Superbowl Sunday. The friend I was visiting explained that the city hadn’t won a major championship since 1979. At that moment, I realized there was no way we weren’t going to watch the game. This is what our Superbowl party looked like:
Watching the game felt a bit like watching the big winter storm coverage that’s consumed the news this year. I was impressed with the devastation, felt bad for the people who were suffering under it and thankful that I was in a much better place. It was actually really fun to see a whole city celebrate at once, but it also fueled my cynicism. I don’t think all that energy and enthusiasm is wasted on sports, but it makes me sad that we never rally in the same way for anything else.
Last night, I went to the Rose Garden (now Moda Center) and felt that same twinge of sadness. I haven’t been in a big arena since I was a high school student going to see INXS at the Worcester Centrum. The spectacle of all those lights, all that sound and the sheer volume of anticipation was both eerie and awesome. It felt a little weird, a little cultish, for all that energy to be focused on a handful of basketball players.
I mean, um…go Blazers!
The friend I went with is a die-hard fan and she spent the time before the game giving me a rundown of the key players. If made to choose, I prefer the game of basketball to that of football or baseball. I like the pace of it, the grace of it. Unfortunately, pace and grace were largely lacking last night. Even my friend was a bit bored/upset with the way our boys played. The crowd clapped and chanted but the waves of excitement never fully developed. This made the whole thing even odder. To be part of a massive group of enthusiastic fans is one kind of craziness. To be part of a massive group of mildly disappointed and somewhat bored fans is another. I kept thinking, what are we all doing here?
Despite this, I don’t think I’m entirely done engaging with the sportsball games. Being at a baseball stadium on a warm, sunny day sounds kind of nice. Witnessing the insanity of the Timbers Army feels like a worthy Portland endeavor. But, fandom will forever be beyond my grasp. Sorry Sports, I’d just rather read a book.