It is possible that some of you, readers, are as confused about my relationship to sports as some of the people in my non-blog life seem to be. I can totally understand that. My plan is to write about how annoying sports are this summer (and Portland sports talk radio, in particular), but I recognize that a more systematic explanation of my interest in sports might be necessary first. An attempt at that follows.
Point one: I am not a sports fan. I do not watch sports. In the past year, I have perhaps seen a grand total of two hours of college football and 3-4 hours of NBA basketball. I will also admit to watching a few minutes here and there of World Cup action. (It seemed impossible to miss.) Most years I catch at least a few NCAA March Madness games, but this year I don't think I saw any at all. I didn't watch anything during the Winter Olympics, other than the unavoidable footage of the poor luge guy who died. (Which, by the way, was hardly better than a snuff film. I mean, really?) I also do not root for any teams myself, although I do take a hometown pride in the Blazers, when they do well, and in both U of O and Oregon State when their teams do well. But that is more a function of my out-0f-control regionalism than sports fandom. Further, I do not own any gear, other than an "Oregon Girls Rock" tee shirt (which doesn't even look like U of O swag) and a green on green longhorn tee which I mostly bought because it was the most Oregon-looking UT product I could imagine.
Point two: I am a huge radio fan. I love listening to people talk on the radio. And, truth be told, I have always sort of felt like I missed out, historically. I would have been a rabid radio "stories" fan in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Most talk radio now, unfortunately, sucks. And it trades mostly in fear and anxiety. I don't need much more of that in my life. I am surrounded by un/underemployed people with rising credit debt. I don't need to hear about it on the radio. This is half of why I have become near obsessed with sports talk radio. Sports talk radio does not make me feel anxious. I do not find myself talking back to the hosts, nor to the callers. I never end up shaking and angry. At most, I occasionally feel some mild irritation.
I also really like listening to someone describe a sporting event on the radio. When I was young, my dad would often take my brothers and me with him to the post office at the airport sometime between dinner and bedtime. I think it gave my stay-at-home mom a little evening breather. I have fond and vivid memories of resting my cheek against a cold car window, watching rain pelt the dark 205 pavement, while Bill Schonely called Blazer games on crackly AM radio. Interestingly, I can't really follow games called on radio. I can hardly follow games that I'm actually watching. But I like listening to games being called, and I really like the interaction between a play-by-play guy and a good color commentator. (Commentators, by the way, have one of the hardest jobs I can imagine. They have to look for openings, and then talk to fill the holes, but get out of the way quickly when something happens. That's not an easy task, especially if you want to make it not seem clunky.)
Point three: I like stories. Most people know this about me. Narrative rocks my world. My primary interest in sports is in sports narratives. Narratives about individual players. Narratives about certain teams. Narratives about management. Sports is filled with great stories. And they are, almost without exception, cooler than stories about celebrities and politicians, because, in sports, stuff actually happens. Celebrities go shopping, have their pictures taken, talk to the press, get pregnant, break up, go to parties, and occasionally do some work. Not really that interesting. And when it IS sort of interesting (a la Lohan), it is too depressing to really follow. Politicians (and American politics, for that matter) are hardly better. But in sports, games are played. Players are drafted and traded. Seasons are completed. Cool stats emerge. Epic battles are won and lost. Personality helps, or gets in the way of success. There is a lot of script. And I find, as someone who has a good handle on story, in general, that it is super easy to follow sports stories. So that I don't really have to watch sports in order to talk about them with some intelligence.
Point four: Guys dig sports. I like listening to guys talk about sports. It has taught me a lot about men. And I like witnessing men bond. Ok? I think it is cute. (And, yes, that is probably as condescending as it sounds.) Listening to sports talk radio appeals to me in a real "fly on the wall" kind of way. AND it has the added benefit of making me informed enough to talk to guys about sports (most of the time--I mean, don't scratch too deep, guys, because if you do, I'll sound like a real idiot). I have an old school belief in the art of conversation. And knowing a little about sports, and about what people are saying about sports at any given time, makes me a better conversationalist (as does knowing a little about film, tv, pop psychology, history, music, and whatever else I know a little bit about).
OK. I'm hoping that sort of clears things up a bit. Next post--what I am learning from sports talk this summer, and why it IS making me a little anxious.