Jordan recently, and completely unintentionally, won tickets to a Kings game. He ended up taking a Canadian friend of ours, who was happy to go but suggested that I ought to go to just one hockey game for the experience. This didn’t seem necessary to me. I’ve been to at least one sporting event, and beyond that, it seems like splitting hairs.
This post is not intended to be a criticism of sports fans, but merely an analysis of my complete and all-encompassing dislike of sports. The dislike is instinctive to me, but I mean to show that it isn’t prejudicial; sports lack any of the traits that interest me.
First, there’s the issue of fandom. It’s at least as divisive as it is uniting, which is in itself a problem, but the deeper issue is the sheer arbitrariness specific to sports fandom. One can be a fan, even an obsessive fan, of just about anything. The difference is that a fan of, say, the fourth doctor has reasons why that character is superior to the other doctors in particular and other science fiction heroes in general: His trademark look of bug-eyed fascination (so appropriate to a character who travels through space and time to discover things), his ability to switch between silly and stern, his robotic dog, and so on. They don’t need to be good reasons, just reasons. In contrast, devotion to a sports team is a fluke of geography. Any reasons one proposes why this particular sports team is better than the others are just props, because teams have good and bad years, players change, coaches change; every possible variable can alter, but the fandom remains. Nor is it usually a nostalgic devotion to how the team used to be, as one might like the fourth doctor but despise the eleventh doctor, but to the current team with its current constellation of traits.
Consider a sports fan who moves to another city. He faces a dilemma. Many people feel the need to switch and be a fan of the team in this city, revealing that there was nothing special about the previous team that actually merited their devotion. Others remain fans of the team from their old home, but this act reveals the problem that it doesn’t make sense to be a fan of a team from somewhere else. You don’t live there; you can’t attend their home games; without the ability to frequently watch them in person, there’s even less of a possible justification for devotion to that particular team. I prefer to have reasons in support of my fandom, so even if a team did catch my interest, it would wane when the particular circumstances that attracted me vanished.
In addition to fandom, there’s a uniformity to sports that bores me. Sports fans would be utterly justified in pointing out that lots of things, from art to novels to genres of movie, all seem the same to people who don’t understand them, and that I simply have never gotten deeply enough involved in sports to understand all the nuance and complexity involved. Fair enough, but there are aspects of sports that really are all the same. Uniforms create uniformity–it’s difficult to contest that point. Then there are the rules. They limit the number of possible things that can happen. Of course there are rules to movie and book plots as well, but to quote Captain Barbossa, “the rules are more like guidelines, anyway.” Part of the fun of watching a movie or reading a book is that, even if it’s obvious where the story is going to go, it doesn’t have to. Anything could happen. There’s also the simple matter of scoring: the end result will be a pair of numbers and the binary condition of winning and losing. It feels simplistic.
Finally, sports are insular. A topic that I actually am interested in is art. I recently helped to inventory the posters in LACMA’s German expressionist gallery. Expressionism was popular in Germany during the first few decades of the twentieth century. The early 20th century was, to put it mildly, an interesting time in Germany: World War I, the overthrow of the monarchy, the disastrous Weimar Republic, and finally the rise of fascism. All of this is reflected in the art. By studying the art, you learn about the culture. Sports has no such connection. A football game is a football game. True, the existence of football is a reflection of culture, but beyond that, time spent watching sports will never benefit you in any area except sports.
If you are a sports fan, you are welcome to it. However, I shall never be one, and it shall never be a trait that I consider at all admirable or interesting.