Religion and sports are alike in that while they both consist of plenty of true followers (the sincerely devoted), they have their fair share of agnostics (the apathetic yet open-minded) and naturally, some atheists (the passionately opposed).
I was born into a family where sports, for all practical purposes, simply did not exist. We never talked about them, never watched them, and really, never played them. Of course there was my 2nd grade year playing baseball- turns out, I was pretty decent. And my 5th and 6th grade years of basketball- not so decent. There was no lofty moral issue we had against sports; it’s just that virtually no one on either side of my family gave them any thought. Except my Uncle Al.
My mom’s brother Al has always been a huge University of Alabama football team fan- for every year of my childhood, thanks to him, I never was without several Alabama t-shirts, sweatshirts, stickers, and whatever else kind of proper memorabilia I would need as a kid growing up in the state of Alabama, where deciding your allegiance to either the University of Alabama or Auburn was only second to whether or not you had accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior.
Even now, on the front license plate holder of my Honda Element, I have a University of Alabama fan plate. Beyond knowing the coach’s name (Nick Saban; easy name to remember since it’s so similar to mine), I can’t tell you much about the team in recent years other than last year was good for them, as was 1992, and that Bear Bryant died in 1983, less than a month after he retired. But I am an Alabama fan, as opposed to Auburn. And even if I’m their worst fan ever, I’m still a fan. But that is the extent of my affiliation with anything in the world of sports.
There’s no way around it: I’m weird for being a guy who doesn’t care about sports. Guys are clearly supposed to care about sports. Throughout my whole life, I’ve tried to convince myself that I’m missing out. That all those Saturday afternoons and Monday nights when I’m spending my time and efforts doing anything else, I should be in front of the TV watching the game. And that for all the games I miss, I should if nothing else, check the scores online to have something to talk about with other guys the next day.
That despite the fact that team players are traded every season, I myself should stay loyal to certain teams. Despite the fact that sports stars are multimillionaires while school teachers often make less $40,000 a year, I should still worship sports figures. And though the outcome of each game and each season doesn’t actually affect reality, it does in the minds of sports fans, so therefore it should matter in my mind.
My apathy towards sports has a lot to do with the fact in my mind, sports aren’t logical. I do see how sports feed that human instinct to replicate war in some way when we ourselves aren’t actually fighting, similar to how most young wild animals “play fight” to prepare each other to eventually kill for food and defend themselves and/or family members. But I can’t see how or why sports should be relevant or important in my life to the degree that they are for so many people. Clearly though, I’m the odd man out here. And clearly, it’s my view of sports, not sports themselves, that is irrelevant.
I am a sports agnostic, not a sports atheist. In other words, I’m cool about it. I just know that people have fun playing and watching sports, so I respect that. I’m still invited to Super Bowl Parties- because despite not knowing the rules of football, I can still have a good time with people who are having a good time, no matter what they’re doing. And who knows, maybe in the back of their minds, sports fans hope to convert me once I finally see what I’m missing. Maybe one day I will finally “get it”.
I have been asked since my first year of high school why it is that I can name any celebrity’s height or ethnicity, what year any song or movie came out, or why I have such a vivid memories of trivial conversations and events that no one else would ever care to remember. Here’s why: Most men occupy a good amount of their passion and their memories to sports. I don’t. I have to fill it with something. My passion is writing, and those odd details and stories are the magic stuff of what I write. If I cared about sports, this website wouldn’t exist, and you would have spent the last couple of minutes doing something else, instead of reading this. Like watching sports.