Am I Sport Fan?

I’m out of Jack Daniel’s. Not really out. There is still enough at the bottom so I have some cologne left. For drinking purposes I can barely lubricate the bottom of the glass. Due to a lack of options (Okay options that #1 work effectively with Coke and #2 I actually will drink are slim. Open up the requirements and the options abound.) I’m going to marry Skyy and Coke.

As I write the near empty bottle of Jack Daniel’s still sits by me as a sip a competitor’s potent potables. The label in its regal black and white monochrome splendor. Bold distinct differences between what is writing and what is background. An easy determiner of what is good and what is evil. Simple much like a Kraken bottle. No space for ambiguity.

Maybe I like the lack of ambiguity so much because there is a surplus of ambiguity in my life. At least in the supposedly easiest question to answer about me: “Am I a sport fan?”

That’s a ridiculously easy question to answer for everyone around me. The shouts immediately go to “Yes!” as if there is seemingly no way the answer to such a question could be “no”. At least not for the boy who used to watch 150 basketball games in person during the winter. Not the boy who got an ESPN Sportscenter ornament for Christmas. Not the boy who has participated in 6 different sports and is contemplating another one to add on to that list. Not the boy who has wanted to be a sports journalist since he was 10 and wrote a season review of the Packers 1997 season. Not the boy who created his own fictional state so he could have his own high school state playoffs in basketball and football (and on rare occasions baseball, soccer and hockey). Not the boy whose 90% of his wardrobe is exclusively sports related. Of course he is a sport fan.

Unfortunately there are two reasons I’m not sure I can answer that question so easily if even at all. The first problem is trying to define a fan. If you ever want to see the loudest questions of what is a true fan, watch a professional team rise up and take the world championship. The city comes gathers around this team and the accusations start flying about who was always a fan, who is a bandwagon fan. Is a bandwagon fan even a fan or just a trophy chaser? Is someone who points out this team is light years above the salary cap and is about to use a fire sale strategy with their players just to stay within league rules a fan or doomsday prophesier trying to rain on everyone’s victory parade through downtown? Are the guys who beat up Bryan Stow outside of Dodger Stadium on Opening Day because Stow was wearing Giants gear while these guys were wearing Dodgers gear “fans”? There is a new ESPN documentary due out this year with the tag line “What if I told you Steve Bartman is the only true Cubs fan?” (By the way I am anxiously awaiting this documentary).

What is a fan is a perilous question to ask? Probably because there is not a more perilous accusation to make in the pseudo-world we escape to cope with our everyday lives. Question anyone’s fan-dom at the next ball game you’re at. But only do it if you are wearing riot gear, less you have a death wish. There is no greater accusation in the world of spectator sports than to openly question whether someone is truly a fan.

I know the stats, the histories, who is leading the division, which team is the dark horse that can strike at any moment. But look at me at a game and I’m not very vocal. I’m not shouting instructions to the players or coaches or refs in a delusional belief that they can #1 actually hear me and #2 actually are going to do what I’m yelling. I’m rather very quiet at games. I preferred radio broadcasting for my college’s basketball games because I was able to get away from people who thought they had a moral obligation to coach from the bleachers and were sure to make everyone around them know it. In full disclosure at track meets I am one of the loudest if I am yelling splits for a runner but this on the coaching rather than fan side of the line.

But the problem with not being able to truly determine a fan is not the deepest problem with whether or not knowing I am a sports fan. Rather if we were just to assume someone who enjoys sports is a “fan” this question still has to deal with whether or not I am a fan.

I find that increasingly more often I try to distance myself from what people consider fans. Whether it is their level of incompetence at the simple rules of the game (no you do not to get to shoot free throws if a charge is committed against you, even if you are in double bonus), or their inability to handle the fact that the people who are wearing the other team’s colors are actually human just like they are. I mock those that sit in sky boxes as they are away from the action, removed from the experience and pay dearly for the privilege yet I yearn at times to be with them because it is easier when no one knows what is going on than if a bunch of people think they know what is going on.

As much as I love being in a sports bar drinking a Spotted Cow, I love sitting in a cafe with some cool artwork on the walls as I sip a mocha. I love watching human drama unfold on either the big screen or on the stage. Maybe it is the drama that sport affords us that draws me to it.

Drama is inherently in sport in general. Drama occurs when there is a battle for a lack of resources, in the case of sport it is “victory.” There can only be one victor and the battle to be that one victor creates drama. I sit with the idea that maybe drama rather than sport is my passion. Maybe I am wasting my time going to graduate school in sport management. But if sport is not what I want to be involved with for the rest of my life what is?

I wanted to be a weather man when I was younger if that counts for anything but there is at times no drama in the weather. When it is sunny and 75 all week the boredom would set in pretty fast. Unless of course there is great excitement in whether or not my projections are correct. However, as I have never been one to put much stock in the grades I got beyond whether or not I passed I doubt I would care much if I was really that good at predicting the weather.

I could go to Hollywood and get in to movie making whether in front of or behind the camera. That would deal with artificially created drama. But as the play or movie creates a fictional world in which the drama takes place much like a haunted house creates a fictional world to be scared, at the end of the day the drama isn’t real. In sport it is real much like it is in a graveyard after midnight. But that is a much too simple of an answer as to why I love sport. That would suggest that I shouldn’t love movies or plays which is wrong. Sometimes fabricated drama is good. As the old saying goes. “Learn from other people’s mistakes, you don’t have time to make all of them yourself.”

It’s like the people who see me as a dumb jock. If that is all you see of me then you are really missing a lot of what I am. Even if you are able to take a look and see me as a smart jock you are still missing a lot. I also watch movies that are more than Any Given Sunday and He Got Game although both are very good movies. I also like movies with more depth like Scent of a Woman and Little Miss Sunshine. I enjoy going to plays and discussing philosophy and politics. Sadly few people exist in my world that I can do that with.

The problem with me fitting in this world is the inability for people to accept that athletics, arts and academics don’t have to compete with one another. A person can value all three. I actually wrote an Op-Ed piece about how a liberal arts college should make sure a student grows in all three: Not my strongest writing but it gets the point across well enough. There seems to be a line of thinking that the same body can’t thirst for knowledge and thirst for Gatorade. That the same ear can’t enjoy the sound of strings representing lightning in Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons, Spring” and the snap of the strings of a net as basketball flies through it. That the same eye can’t ponder at the beauty of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and the combining of two gases to form water, the necessary ingredient for all life.

The idea that these three things can’t co-exist is something I’ll tackle at a later time. The question as to whether I am a sport fan or not is answerable. Even though I am all these things more than just a dumb jock it doesn’t preclude me from being a sport fan as much as the world would like to make it so. Me being an enigma due to the lack of people who see all three “A’s: Academics, Athletics and Arts” is something I will definitely dive into another day. The preview is in the link in the paragraph above.

I am a sport fan. I enjoy watching people push their body to the limits. I love pushing myself to the limits. The pulse pounding drama as two teams battle neck and neck for a victory only one can attain. The hair-raising excitement when an athlete can bring an entire stadium to its feet. And none of this takes away from the fact I also enjoy a quiet coffee shop with a mocha in my hand. Is it crystal clear, nicely cut and dry like the black and white Jack Daniel’s bottle? Not quiet. But a world lacking any ambiguity is a boring place to live.


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