Friday, June 20, 2008

It's about sports, but really not

For some reason I paused from loading my new Sansa with music to catch up on Deadspin from the last day and a half. I'm glad I did, for the latest installment of Balls Deep.

It's about Tiger Woods, but it's not about Tiger Woods at all (and it's some damn fine writing. For all his vulgarity - and for all Buzz Bissinger's resentment towards his work - Drew is a talented, thought-provoking writer). That's something I love abundantly about sports: the U.S. Open doesn't really matter at all, but we can make it matter, we can make it a moment to share with our neighbors or our grandkids or a reading audience or Facebook friends. It doesn't matter how good or bad the Royals are, but by sharing in the misery (and the occasional triumph), we make it matter, if for no other reason than to have something to share.

Is it healthy to obsess over sports? Maybe not. I probably devote too much time to baseball and not enough time to other things (exercise, drawing, reading the news), but I think it's better to be passionate about sports than to be passionate about nothing. And maybe in a way, bonding with neighbors and strangers about ballgames helps to prepare us to bond over tragedy.

People often complain, legitimately, that this world is way too impersonal, that people are too obsessed with their own activities to greet a passing neighbor on the sidewalk. (Heck, I am guilty of this sometimes - I started this post acknowledging that I have yet another headphoned gadget to buffer myself from the world around me.) How much worse would that be if we didn't have sports? Whenever I see a stranger wearing Royals stuff on, I feel like I can relate. Even though that person and I have never spoken, I can see that we have shared in a lot of the same things: frustration, false hope, just enough victory to keep us both hanging on and proclaiming our fandom.

With what else can you do that? I can't look at a stranger in the grocery store and say, "Oh, that girl is Catholic. We have so many things in common, such a connection." I can't look at someone and see things like that, but I can see what their sports affiliation is - I do have a way to relate to my neighbor and appreciate his frustrations and victories. That is, in the words of Sara Evans, a real fine place to start.

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