It’s taken me 34 years, but I’ve decided to become a sports fan. For love. Please let me explain. First, you should know I was born into a family of accomplished jocks. My father played college basketball and my brother played college football. My grandfather and uncle were tennis pros. When they discovered I was left-handed, my parents had high hopes that I would grow up to be a star first basewoman with a mean backhand. No such luck. I was a chubby, allergy-prone child, destined to be nothing more than a ball magnet on the field. My hand-eye-coordination is on the low-functioning end of the spectrum. And my spatial intelligence is completely non-existent. Meaning, I regularly bump into walls.
As a kid, I played soccer for two seasons and softball for one. My positions were respectively fullback and first base, where I tried to move as little as possible and spent entire games imaging a series of slapstick-style vignettes involving the other players until, inevitably a soccer ball or softball popped me right between the eyes and knocked me out. In gym class, I was always picked last, except on days when I had a doctor’s note (which were as many days as I could get away with).
Long, long, long ago I shunned all sports (playing and watching) in favor of indoor activities — reading, movies, music, theater, and pizza, you know, the finer things in life. The rare times I attended a Super Bowl party (for the guacamole and the half-time show) or was forced to watch a game with friends, I’ve managed to develop a skill I call “sports blindness.” It’s really impressive. I can be watching a sporting event, yet not see anything that’s happening. For example, I can watch a team lose a game right before my very eyes and I’ll turn to you and ask, “What just happened? Did one of the teams lose?”
I was comfortable with this level of ignorance until I fell in love with a sports fan. Even though we have wildly varying levels of interest in sports, I didn’t think of this as a dealbreaker. A cat lover? Maybe. A sports fan? I may have no interest in basketball, but it doesn’t give me pink eye. We’ve gotten into a groove the last six months — I watch “Project Runway” when he’s sleeping in on the weekends and he watches SportsCenter when I’m at yoga or with friends. I thought things would continue on this way indefinitely and we’d be able to maintain ignorance about certain of each other’s interests. And then last week, he dropped a bomb.
“We need to talk,” he said.
“I’m listening, ” I replied, preparing for the worst.
“Football season is starting, which means my Sundays are no longer free.”
I nodded, taking in the news, telling him we’d work it out, but having no idea how. I’ve never been serious with a major sports fan before. That, and I am a firm believer that you shouldn’t have to change who you are or pretend to like things for the person you love. And certainly not something I decided to hate decades ago. While laying in corpse pose in yoga, where all my best life contemplation occurs, I realized that I wouldn’t necessarily be changing or pretending if I chose to show a genuine interest in sports, I would just be trying something new. Making an effort to become a sports fan — or at least, a sports appreciator — wouldn’t be compromising my values. It would be showing interest in something that my boyfriend loves. Because I love him. Simple as that. In return, I’ll make him go see the “Glass Menagerie” on Broadway with me. An eye for an eye.
I made good on my vow to try the sports thing this weekend. A friend scored a group of VIP tickets to the Yankees game and I went with my dude. I was bracing for the worst. I imagined hours of sitting in the hot sun eating a stale pretzel while drunk brutes spilled beer in my hair. Not so much. There was a free, all-you-can-eat buffet in an air-conditioned lounge complete lobster tails and duck breast and pancakes and personal cheesecakes. There were shelves filled with more free candy than Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and a full bar that served sauvignon blanc in glasses that fit into my seat holder. We were in the second row, which meant I was close enough to see the player’s tattoos. As I sat there, munching on a funnel cake, watching Derek Jeter at bat, looking at the huge grin on my boyfriend’s face, I thought, I could get used to this.
But don’t ask me who won the game. I have no idea.
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