Some deficiency in my nature or upbringing (though I doubt the latter, as my parents really did try) leaves a noticable gap in my personality where the enjoyment of sports should be. Try as I might, nothing seems to stick. Through the efforts of many, I’ve developed into a decent hockey fan, but still can’t sit and watch a whole game by myself. I managed to attend every home high school football game and come away with no idea what “fair catch” means. F1, rally racing, and skiing remain the only events I can stomach, probably because I have driven a car and have also skiied. (Skied? Too bored with it to even look it up.)

Fictional sports, on the other hand, merit being called an obsession. Watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban last night stoked that fire until it glowed with warm geekiness. I know as much about Quidditch as any person living. While my interest in the Harry Potter series can at most be described as passing, the merest glimpse of the oval and rings makes the blood pound in my under-exercised heart. The two other biggies are pod racing and blitzball. I sincerely wish I could explain why the distractions of made-up people keep my attention more easily than actual human competition, but I am at a complete loss, an observer of my own habits as removed as you are. Feel free to submit tentative explanations — your guess is at least as good as mine.

2 replies on “Layers”

I think the reason you can’t get into most sports is that you don’t have a team.

I think there is an imprinting like period in life when love for a team is forged (~10-13 years old). If you don’t develop on emotional attachment to a team during that period, you never will.

I developed a deep attachment to the Buffalo Bills in eighth and ninth grad. I pay an inordinate amount of attention to them, but I cannot watch an entire NFL game unless its outcome directly affects the Bills.

I couldn’t care less about basketball, baseball, hockey (when the Sabres do well, I get interested, but I’m not attached), or even college basketball after going to Duke for six years.

Maybe there are some people that like to watch sports for sports sake, but most of us love a team or two from our childhood and feel mainly ambivalence for the rest.

As for the fictional sports obsession…well…that’s a different animal entirely; one that may someday require therapy?

Your lack of enthusiasm for watching sports is understandable. I’ve been grappling with this same affliction for some time now, and even in soccer, my knowledge of player and team histories is not that developed. I have some thoughts on why this might be.

Football is basically 20 minutes, if that, of action (I refer to “action” starting at the hike and ending at the down) spread over three hours. Baseball has a deliberate pace, like drying paint. Hockey and soccer are faster, with more action, but even then it can be quite some time between goals and therefore become stagnant to a casual observer (passes it… holds it! holds it! holds it!!). Add to that watching hometown teams play dissappointingly, and these games can leave a distaste in your mouth for the genre.

Put someone you know in a game and it instantly becomes interesting. You either want to see them succeed for fail, and you don’t want to miss it. With free agents, inflated salaries, drug use, scandals and ascerbic egos riddling the pool of professional athletes, it’s difficult to really find a player/team combo that you can get behind for long, so like Seinfeld said, you’re really just rooting for the jersies, if that. Boring.

Fictional sports like Quidditch, Blitzball and pod racing are engineered to be more sensational and less mundane. First of all, there is the fantastic element, be it magic, superpowers or technological wonder. Add to it the fact that they are story driven, so your emotional investment has been stoked all along, and the games or events always culminate with a dramatic last-minute victory by the underdog protagonist, and it’s easy to love the atmosphere of it all.

Also, you’re not disadvantaged from the start by not having an encyclopedia’s worth of sports minutiae in your head like every other spectator seems to have for the real stuff, so there’s nothing intimidating about watching.

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