Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Not much of a fan

My husband does not think of me as a very good sports fan.

In fact, he’s pretty sure that if the success of our local pro teams depended on my support, we wouldn’t even have the teams anymore, let alone the occasional championship season.

Right now, the Red Sox are halfway through a World Series, and the Patriots are having a generally winning, if not stellar, year. So the TV is on a lot at our house, tuned to various matches.

I find the score read-out at the top of the screen enormously useful. It allows me to take a quick peek, see whether our team is winning or losing, and continue on my way. If our team is losing, I usually say something insightful like “Oh, no!” If we’re winning, I can usually muster up a “Yay!” After all, I might not be genuinely interested, but the rest of my household is, and so are many of the people with whom I interact in a typical day, so life is better for me when the home team wins even if I personally don’t particularly care.

Rick likes to remind me that one impediment to true fandom in my life is that I don’t like the thought of anyone losing. I like people to be happy and feel good about themselves as long as they’ve tried hard. You don’t reach the upper echelons of professional sports without pretty much always trying hard, which means that you nearly always end up with one group of guys who gave it their all but lost anyway. I always hope they enjoyed the game despite the score, but coming home to a city of disappointed fans when you’ve lost can’t really be as good a feeling as I’d like to think it is.

The irony is that for the past couple of years, one of my varied freelance roles has been to write profiles of past and present NFL players. To a writer who was more of a football fan, this would be a dream assignment, getting to hear the innermost thoughts of these men as they train or reflect on past championship games. To me, it’s just another writing assignment, although a generally interesting one since each player’s path to the top is a little different, and each man’s perspective on the obstacles he faced along the way varies.

But regardless of the details, I’m not star-struck by them. I’ve never heard of any of them. In a way, that gives me a healthy advantage in terms of journalistic objectivity, but it also means that I don’t always get the terminology right. Rick occasionally looks over my work and points out that I’ve misused the term “sacking” or referred incorrectly to a “college draft.”

It may be to my disadvantage that I’m not a sports fan, but almost without exception, everything I cover as a journalist eventually becomes interesting to me, and even if I still can’t follow the score while watching the Super Bowl, I appreciate the players for their fierce athleticism and the mountains they’ve climbed to reach their particular level of accomplishment. Later this week, I’ll have the opportunity to interview the women’s Olympic hockey team. I’ve never watched a pro hockey game in my life (and actually, the only time I’ve ever watched a non-pro hockey game was when the only opportunity I had to meet with my literary agent was over her son’s Pee-Wee Tournament), but I’m eager to hear what they have to say about their training, their challenges, and how they imagine the Olympics will be.

Sports may not interest me, but people always do. So it’s true that I probably won’t sit down for a minute of the World Series this week. But given the chance to talk one-on-one with an athlete, I’m always confident I’ll learn something fascinating.

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