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eat, pray, talk

September 15, 2011

[It is Month 4 of my Chasing Maybes project, during which I am stumbling through untested Sports and Leisure territory.  For those of you who are visual learners, I’m looking to add an orange wedge to my Trivial Pursuit pie.] 

On Tuesday, I blathered on about instances when sports devotion turns ugly.  I talked about  how Duke basketball tickets have pitted one sister against the other and how a father of two was beaten nearly to death for wearing the wrong jersey to a baseball game.  In other words, I was a total Debbie Downer (cue waah waah music).

In fandom as in life, though, I believe there exists far more light than shadow.  And, as someone whose indifference to sports has placed me squarely in the minority of my family and friends (and, I guess, the rest of the world), it behooves me to address the lighter side of sports devotion.  To do this, I asked those close to me a simple question: “Why are you a sports fan?”  Their responses fell into three categories: religion, language, and celebration.

Fandom as religion

“Football’s so important in Texas. On the West Coast, it’s a social. On the East Coast, it’s a culture. Here, it’s a religion.” — Major Applewhite, quarterback for the Texas Longhorns from 1998 to 2001

boy in NY Jets yarmulke, by MarkWallace via flickr

When asked, “Why are you a sports fan?” I heard these responses over and over:  “I like being a part of something greater than myself,” “To cheer for a team is to join a community of like-minded people,” “I look forward to the routine of watching games every week, cheering for their successes.” Congregation, meaning, and ritual abounded in these answers.  For many, it seems, fandom offers an opportunity to transcend the ordinary and connect to the divine.

Fandom as language


For some, sports fandom is a language that bridges chasms of difference.  When the financier father and his artist son reunite for the holidays, they might not be able to talk politics.  They neither watch the same movies nor enjoy the same restaurants, but baseball is a language in which they are both fluent.  It is a safe home to which they return every time they meet.  It taps into a mutual history and shared hopes.

Fandom as celebration

image by pinguino via flickr

Finally, sports fandom provides opportunities for revelry.  Most people I polled mentioned the camaraderie of sharing a team’s win with friends.  They talked about eating hot dogs at baseball games or buffalo wings while watching football on television.  They talked about tailgating with their families on crisp fall afternoons.

And now I’ll extend my unscientific poll to you…  Why are you (or aren’t you) a sports fan?  I’d love to hear from you.  Your responses will be a welcome distraction from unpacking boxes following our (final!) move this weekend.  Oh, and if you could also cross your fingers that the movers actually show up this time, that would be fantastic.  Thanks.

I hope you celebrate a victory, however small, today.  Thank you — always — for showing up.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve permalink
    September 15, 2011 7:23 am

    Last Saturday night, I sat in a bar I’d never been to and high-fived people I’d never met. That’s not really acceptable in other aspects of life… Church? A board meeting? The DMV? It connects people in ways our world otherwise does not allow.

    It’s also an escape from our regular lives. However, our regular lives sometimes can’t escape from our sports lives, which will be evidenced by how miserable I will be unpacking boxes if my team loses on Saturday.

  2. Lucy Falk permalink
    September 15, 2011 7:52 am

    good luck with your move!!!! Send us pics of your new house!

    • September 15, 2011 4:24 pm

      thanks so much… we will! looking forward to a permanent address and all of the benefits that follow.

  3. September 20, 2011 4:30 pm

    I am just now getting around to reading this post. BTW, Anne, I’ve enjoyed them all. This one particularly applies to me because I am definitely a sports fan, especially football. I’ve wondered myself how I can be attracted to such a rough game as football. The only feasible answer I could come up with is that it helps relieve me of some aggression that I must feel.:) However, that said, I also developed a love of the game before it became so body battering. I grew up watching my brother play and then became a cheerleader in high school. There is that bonding of family interests, as you mentioned in your blog. There are extremes of emotion when the team you love wins or loses. I certainly love the highs but not so excited about the lows. I marvel at the tactics and strategies that sports teams invent. I tried to learn something about rugby when we were in New Zealand. It’s a very intricate and many ruled game but I still could see how a team effort and cooperation in executing plays is like a ballet. If one member screws up, it affects the whole performance. I also stand in amazement at how the young people can carry so much responsibility toward each other. I believe that sports teaches young people a lot about relating to others and being part of a group if they will heed the lessons. That sounds sappy but I believe it to be true. There are certainly many other situations that teach the same lessons, however. Maybe I should “chase maybes” and try some out. Keep the blog entries coming!

    • September 20, 2011 10:02 pm

      lenora, i love everything about your comment… it really made me think. i especially like your point about appreciating the strategy, cooperation, and balance of team sports. thank you so much for sharing your insights with me — they are so helpful. hope you guys are doing great :).

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