Growing up I was not introduced to sports as most young boys were. My father was raised in an orphanage and never really developed an appreciation for competitive athletics. He was not enamored with sitting and watching a football game or taking his sons to ball games. As a result, my own appreciation and understanding of sports was a bit stunted. I was on my own.
I have always loved football. Basketball grew on me through college and beyond, so much so that I was a successful high school coach. Soccer has become a passion through my children, and I love NASCAR as result of my marriage. Baseball, excepting the playoffs, remains a conundrum for me. I love going to games, but watching baseball on television is equivalent to waiting for the spin cycle to end on my washing machine. And then there is my wife.
My wife grew up in a classically conservative Latino household and resisted the “macho” culture with every ounce of her will. As a result, she used formidable effort to beat her brothers at any sport possible. She will tell you she was successful, too, beating two athletically skilled brothers in judo and basketball. She was also a great runner and was offered scholarships in cross-country, basketball and track.
As part of her drive for superiority in her male-dominated world, she immersed herself in knowledge about every sport possible. She memorized stats, names and historical information, and scoured injury reports.
For my part, I am a happy observer. I love to watch sports. I love seeing USC fall and Notre Dame and UCLA win. It’s been a tough few years, but things are looking up. I have a few favorite NFL teams, but playing Fantasy Football the past few years has turned me into a player fan. I love college anything, and soccer is a new love. But that is where my involvement in college and profession sports ends.
I have never understood memorizing endless facts and statistics. I do not check the standings of any team on a daily basis. I read the sports page headlines and call it good. There isn’t a team on the planet, except my daughter’s soccer team, of which I can name the entire roster. In short, I am underdeveloped — or, as many would say, unusually ignorant — in my knowledge of sports.
There it is, one of the great confessions of my life.
The other side of the confession is that my wife knows exponentially more than me when it comes to sports. She can hold her own in any sports conversation while I flounder trying to place names, remember team affiliations and stumble through most sports-related conversations like Dan Quayle through a spelling bee.
Most of the time I just stand back and watch her match wits with some of our male friends. I will contribute when I have something reasonably insightful to offer; mostly I keep my mouth shut and don’t say much.
But there are those times when I find myself completely lost. Our fantasy draft stands out as a time of particular stress and anguish. She humors me and asks who I think we should pick. I look at her with that “Really?” look, and all the men and women in the room look back at her with a kind of gentle pity. “Where did you find this guy?” their eyes say.
I’ve stopped feeling embarrassed or trying to make excuses. In fact, I’ve convinced myself I am the perfect fan — not so crazed as to lose all reason and not so removed that I can’t enjoy the game. She can keep her statistics and DL lists. I’ll take the high road and enjoy sport as any purist should — for the love of the game.