I can’t imagine that I will ever publish a post as unpopular as this one is bound to be–particularly with anyone from my own city, and, I’d bet, most everyone else. However, I still think it still needs to be said.
When I was growing up, being a nerd was still an anomaly; hipster chic had yet to rear its ugly head, and if you weren’t into sports, you were nothing. Guess which camp I was in? That’s right; I was the one who always wanted to build a fort out of the mats in gym class, rather than join into the team sport. Times have changed a bit, and it’s become more socially acceptable for a man to show no interest in sports, but not as much as some of us might have hoped.
Hockey is ubiquitous in Canada, but it’s football that’s really grown in my city over the last decade. We’ve had our own team for over a century now (though not under the current franchise name—that’s only been around for about 65 years), but it’s only in the last decade or so that their popularity has increased to a fervor—to the point where people speak of the “Rider Nation” (our team being the Roughriders) and “bleeding green” (green being our team’s primary color).
I’ve tried to integrate myself into the mass of fans at times, in part because of family history (my grandfather played for the team in the 40s), and in much larger part because of how rabid a fan my sister tends to be. While I do fine in the moment—I know most of the rules, understand the game, and even generally enjoy watching it while I’m watching it—the experience has never resonated with me. I don’t feel the need to watch football, and I don’t understand how it makes any sense for people with no actual connection to the game (or playing experience, in most cases) to connect with it so viscerally that a loss can ruin their entire weekend, or a win can make their day. It baffles me. Even more confusing and annoying is the prevalence of team colors everywhere in my city, and the constant pressure from others to take part, either conversationally, or more directly, by demanding to know where my colors (and by extension, team spirit) are. I’ve even had people act openly hostile if I happen to be wearing (quite by accident, as I generally have no clue who is playing) the opposing team’s colours. Even if I manage to explain that I’m not interested in football, the next statement is inevitably something like: “Oh, you must be a hockey guy, then.”
The trouble is that I feel the same about pretty much all other sports. I can watch and understand hockey, rugby (both league and union, for the Aussies out there—though I’ve never taken the time to learn Aussie Rules), cricket, baseball, basketball, and any number of others, to greater or lesser degrees. I’ve even enjoyed sitting on the couch with the guys, knocking back a couple of wobbly pops and watching a good scrum (that’s in rugby, for the unfamiliar) or a great punt return…but it’s not something I crave (well, I may crave the beer and bullshitting—just not the sport).
Maybe that’s the draw, right there: belonging, feeling like a part of something bigger, theoretically more important, than oneself. I know a lot of guys, or girls, also have some fond memories of enjoying the sport with their mom/dad/grandparent/sibling/best friend. I can understand that. Maybe there’s even a little bit of narrative draw in there—sometimes there’s a decent underdog story at play, or something similar—though I would argue it’s a pretty damned shabby story compared to any good book or TV show. Maybe it’s just the primitive rush of shared, unbridled emotion that led Romans to their coliseums. Hell, maybe it’s something so foreign to me that I can’t even begin to understand it.
I’m not sure I ever want to understand. More and more, I’m disgusted by the kind of behavior that stalks organized sports. Riots on the streets of Vancouver, with people taking any opportunity or excuse to break things and act like hooligans; cat-calling and fights outside of sports bars over someone’s colors; even the less obvious things like the internalization of the sports culture, leaving people grouchy and angry over a loss and forcing everyone else to deal with their foul temper. It’s crap, and I think it’s a mistake to indulge it—like it would be to indulge any 2-year-old’s poor behavior.
Here’s the reality: it’s just a game, a bunch of guys being paid way too much money (in most cases; I realize not everyone makes huge money) to play with some balls.
Here’s the harsher reality: most of those watching and talking about “our boys” have never played, or will never play again at any sort of competitive level; you’re talking out of your asses and living vicariously. That’s fine in your own house, but don’t expect me to care about it or support your time wasting, any more than I would expect you to indulge my hobbies.
Maybe my opinion makes me a humbug. Maybe it makes me an ass—it certainly wouldn’t be the first time. Or maybe, just maybe, people should enjoy what they want to enjoy without having it become everyone else’s problem or obsession. If I didn’t fly off the handle publically when Dumbledore died and try to pressure everyone into Hogwarts-themed grieving clothes, maybe others can offer me the same courtesy and STFU about my lack of team colors when I’m grocery shopping, on the bus, or even at work.