I’ve spent my life watching grown men play games with each other. I don’t know these men. They don’t know me. They get paid millions of dollars to play these games. I get nothing to watch them. I spend more time thinking and reading about their games than they spend playing them. I check the internet every few minutes. I even check my own blog a few times a day; I have a sports blog that no one reads. During class my mind wanders, and I catch myself speculating about trade scenarios.
Often I wonder what it would be like if we never had to sleep. How much more productive would we be if we didn’t have to spend 8 hours a day, stuck in our beds like a lump of salami? I think the world would be a much different place if we all had that much extra time.
And so I wonder what my life would be like without sports. If I had never spent a second following professional sports, what would I have used all that time for? Would I be smarter? Healthier? More attractive? Famous? More talented? A better all-around person? I would probably be one of those things. So am I wasting my time?
When the Seattle Supersonics moved to Oklahoma City, Bill Simmons dedicated a gigantic mailbag to Sonics fans’ heartbreak. Fans wrote in with comments that, to a non-sports fan, seem ridiculous. Grown men and women admitted to crying, or falling into pits of depression or anger. All because a sports team left their city. But at the beginning of his article The Sports Guy included a quote that, to me, justifies both Seattle’s heartache and all sports fans’ obsession. It’s about baseball, but it applies:
“It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitive as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look -- I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring -- caring deeply and passionately, really caring -- which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete -- the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball -- seems a small price to pay for such a gift.”
That was the New Yorker’s Roger Angell, talking about Carlton Fisk’s home run in the 1975 World Series.
I’m writing this article, and not the 12-page paper that’s due soon. I’m trying harder on this than I probably will on it. And I daydream about sports while I’m in class. That’s because I don’t care about the meaning of religion in 16th Century English drama, and I do care about how the Raptors’ starting lineup will look come the regular season.
Angell nailed it. It all comes down to caring. Perhaps it makes us naïve or infantile, immature or unsophisticated. Perhaps our time could be better spent on other things. But perhaps it’s worth the cost.