The onslaught of football and baseball coverage and My Drunken Socks' defense of football have got me thinking about my lifelong indifference toward sports and my lifelong hatred of a lot of grief my indifference has caused me, particularly growing up in a tiny town that revolved around sports in general, and local basketball in particular. My previous, one-word post was flippant and dismissive, especially to anyone who happens to like sports, and I don't think he's wrong when he writes, "Philosophically, I just don't understand why people wholesale dismiss sports." (Although, I'm equally unable to understand his hatred of the Beatles.) I don't want to dismiss or begrudge anyone's enjoyment of a favorite sport or sports. It's just that I was born with a deeply ingrained disinterest in any sport of any kind. I leave sports alone, and I want them to leave me alone. But the world, especially Hometown, won't let me and sports peacefully coexist in our own separate worlds. The world won't stop dragging sports into my life. I can never avoid sports. It always comes up, embarrassing me, emasculating me, boring me, abruptly halting friendly small talk, preempting Arrested Development, closing streets I need to drive on, fucking up parking, causing me to disappoint family members and friends' parents with my lack of even the most basic sports chat, including what teams are playing that day. Knowledge and interest in sports are a big part of our shared American culture, and I'm missing some part of my brain that allows me to give a fuck about it, though I'm not missing the part that makes me wish I gave a fuck. I just can't. I've got no interest, and life is short and getting shorter. So I'm stuck with this huge, awkward, social deficit. It's not quite so bad now, but growing up in Hometown was a bad place to be for a sports loser.
Step into my world, won't you?
An anecdotal history of Life in the Dr. Mystery Sports Void
1) All I wanted to do when I was three was look at comic books and listen to rock and roll. This hasn't changed much, if at all. My fellow Hometownians were outside playing kickball. When school started, they were good at kickball. I sucked, though I learned to read first and I could name every member of Van Halen and the lyrics to Michael Jackson's "Thriller." This was a poor substitute for kickball skills at the time, maybe still. Probably still.
2) Junior high. Turns out, kickball wasn't the only thing I sucked at. Baseball, basketball, football. You name it, I sucked at it. Girls stopped liking me. I've written about this in the comments at My Drunken Socks, so I won't whine about it anymore except to say when girls don't like you anymore, there's not much point to anything. You just have to keep waking up knowing that someday, you will be old enough to get the fuck out of Hometown.
3) Nebraska football is a big deal, but Hometown was four hours from Denver, so Bronco football was a big deal as well. I was thrown into a sweaty panic whenever someone asked me about the big game. Were they talking college ball? Pro ball? What the hell do I say? I don't even know who we're playing or what day the game is. I had a small repertoire of vague answers that never seemed to satisfy. "It's too tough to call right now." "It's going to be a good one." "I agree with you." "You know it." "Yep." "I know. I can't believe it either." Who's-going-to-win questions were easier, since either "Huskers" or "Broncos" was the correct answer, but if I mentioned Broncos when I should have mentioned Huskers, my dark secret would be revealed. I especially dreaded questions about coaches, plays, particular players, or league politics. I had nothing. The only one who was easy to snow was my grandfather's lunatic friend Estrada. He was so obsessed with the Broncos that he called every teenager "Denver Bronco." Whenever he saw me, he would say, "Hey, Denver Bronco. Who's going to win today?" I knew the answer was always "Denver Broncos." Then, he would whoop and holler and tell me he liked the cut of my jib or something. Actually, I made that last part up. This may not sound like much of a big deal, especially since most kids at my high school knew I sucked at sports and had no interest in them, but the adults were different. They were harder, more suspicious, disgusted even. They knew there was something wrong with me. I wasn't one of them, and it made them angry. Not liking sports meant one of four things in Hometown. I was either 1) "weird" 2) on drugs 3) a big pussy or 4) flamingly, screamingly gay. Most people thought I was a one with a little two thrown in, but I was always under the impression that a jock father of one of my friends was in the three camp, trying to get a fix on whether I was a four. To him, my not going out for football was equivalent to giving head in drag to Harvey Fierstein during halftime at Homecoming while the Pet Shop Boys and Liza Minnelli duetted behind me. He eventually decided I wasn't a four and warmed up to me a little, but I could never break out of the number three ghetto.
4) One of my uncles is a sports-fixated kind of guy and his kids are all good athletes. He thinks I'm a great big pussy. He's only said about five sentences to me in my life, and we've probably been in the same room together for at least 1,000 hours of our collective lifetimes. Oh well, he's only related by marriage. Fuck him.
5) Pep rallies were mandatory in my high school. Was this the case at other schools? I hope so. I hope you all suffered, too.
6) I've lived in two college towns that are football mad. In college in Lincoln, I lived a few blocks from Memorial Stadium. On game days, I wasn't allowed to park in my street. I call bullshit on that one. I got several tickets because I never knew when the home games were and I slept late, my car parked in its usually legal spot. That's some bullshit. No taxation without representation, bitch! I fucking live there! Fuck you! I pay rent on this house and I pay taxes on this street! Fuck your football tax!
7) I flew back home recently because my grandmother was having risky surgery. The priest of the local Catholic Church was at her house for a visit. After learning I lived in Texas, he said, "You're probably a Spurs fan, right?" I no longer try to hide my shame, so I said, "Actually, I'm not much of a sports fan." His face fell, he stared silently at me in disbelief, and it was a good seven seconds before he could regain his composure. My disinterest in sports disgusted a priest. I was emasculated by a guy who is not allowed to touch women.
8) This list could be endless. I've purposely left out the most painful stuff to keep it amusing and less whiny. But sports have rained on my parade for years. Why do shopkeepers, bartenders, people I meet on the elevator, people in line at the bank, etc. etc. keep asking me my thoughts on sports? Do I sidle up next to some random stranger and say "Hey, buddy, what are your thoughts on the films of John Cassavetes and Robert Bresson? Compare and contrast?" or "What did you think of that Raymond Carver book? Wasn't that a doozy?" or "Where do you think Yo La Tengo will take things on the next album? Back to the Electropura style or continue in the more contemplative direction of recent years?" If you like sports, God bless you, but I have to live in your world so much of the time, and I want out.