I love sports. Not all sports - I can't sit and watch a boxing match with much interest, but even then I can manage an appreciation for the competition. My mom and sisters think I'm crazy and are not really sure how I ended up becoming a sports fan after essentially growing up surrounded by women.
It was an evolution for me. Lots of little and not-so-little influences. Like talking to my dad on Sunday afternoons while he was watching the Buffalo Bills game on TV. Being forced to watch Atlanta Braves baseball games with my friends (mostly guys, obviously). It really started to take hold in college, though. I had a roommate who loved the Atlanta Braves and NASCAR. Now, the NASCAR thing didn't rub off - I still think that's the biggest, most irresponsible waste of gas ever. But I got to watch some pretty exciting Braves games in '91 and '92. I even started to appreciate pitching duels - a couple years earlier, I would've said, "How can you sit through 3 hours of a 1-0 game and call it exciting?". Watching Smoltz, Glavine, and later Maddux, I started to understand. I love that baseball has so many nuances. There is always something to learn. It's really not complicated, but there so many strategies for how to play the game. Moving to Boston cemented it. Baseball is such a huge part of the culture here, and I love that when I walk into a store or a bar - or anywhere - during baseball season, there is always something to talk about with the person next to you. And then, of course, there is the atmosphere of baseball - whether it's in a big stadium, a small old park like Fenway, a minor league field, or a little league field - it's the same: blue skies, the smell of grass, a cold beer, a hot dog, and cheering fans. I will be a baseball fan for life.
I should also mention that my UNC Tar Heels won the National Championship in 1993 - my freshman year. My dorm was across the street from the Dean Dome, and I camped out for tickets and hated Dook along with everyone else. It's infectious. I often ask my sister, also a UNC grad, how she managed to graduate from UNC without a passion for basketball. I don't understand, but I guess she ran in a different crowd. Her loss. I will be a Tar Heel fan for life.
Nobody has ever summed up being a sports fan better than the New Yorker's Roger Angell in his piece "Agincourt and After," in this passage about Carlton Fisk's famous home run in the 1975 World Series:
It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitive as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look -- I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring -- caring deeply and passionately, really caring -- which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete -- the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball -- seems a small price to pay for such a gift.