Explaining guy’s fanatic devotion to sports.
At the core of every guy is a failed athlete. There are almost no exceptions to this rule. During childhood, just about every single boy in North America aspires to play some professional sport. This pursuit is engrained into our being, passed down from grandfather to father, father to son. It is virtually genetic.
How do I know this? Because I am both a failed baseball and soccer player.
It's great when you're a kid. Spring afternoons filled with wiffle ball, summer evenings with Little League games, and spending autumn nights reenacting World Series highlights.
Then puberty sets in and you realize you're no Michael Jordan—5’ 9" is as tall as you are ever going to. And you fail spectacularly.
These failed athletes still exist in all of us, deep inside our bodies now retrofitted for couch sitting and internet surfing by domestic beer and fast food.
The very few exceptions to this rule include the lucky ones; the home run hitters and big game pitchers that actually made it (though I would imagine their lives are also entirely consumed by the world of sports.) And there are, of course, the smart ones. The one half of one percent who shunned the world of sports entirely and became musicians and writers, critics and artists.
But I'm talking about the rest of us—the guys you date, the boys you know, the ones that will watch any game, no matter the sport or teams involved. The ones who read Deadspin on an hourly basis, who listen to sports radio incessantly and who, on any given Sunday, are involved in at least five fantasy football teams. We are the ones that never quite got over getting cut from varsity junior year or losing our last state playoff game. The ones who have had to settle for a lifetime of living vicariously through a collection of men who wear the same jerseys and happen to represent the cities we live closest to.
It's often a sad existence, one that I’m not always proud off. Yet there are moments—though very seldom—of transcendence. When, for a brief period of time, we become bigger than the sport itself and feel as if we are actually a member of our favorite team. In 2004, when the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years, I felt as if I had recorded the final out, that I had batted over .400 for the playoffs, and that I was there celebrating with them on the infield of old Busch Stadium in St. Louis instead of with friends in a cramped college dorm room back in Boston.
When the mere viewing of games on television and in-person are not enough, or to get us through tough times in seasons, we start office softball teams, take pick-up basketball games way too seriously, spend hundreds of dollars on the latest video games to simulate seasons, and even form fantasy leagues.
So why do we engage in such absurdities? Why do we invest so much financially and emotionally in sports?
Because without these things we may remember that majoring in communications and working as a seller for a major textbook publishing company was not Plan A—playing point guard for an NBA franchise was.
I'm not surprised that many women do not understand this. It's a peculiar and strange devotion, a borderline obsession even. But the next time you are discussing celebrity gossip with a friend consider this: a simple switch of the subject (say from Britney Spears to Travis Hafner) and the predicate (from her never ending fall from grace to his continual drop in on-base percentage) may explain more than any rationalizing I could ever do.
But please, don't blame us. Blame our parents. Or if you have mothered a child, blame yourself. We have been encouraged, if not pushed into, such pursuits, told to dream of becoming the next Tom Brady, LeBron James, or Derek Jeter. No one ever sends an eight-year old outside to play "write the great American novel" or "make an Academy Award winning film." If they did, we would have an entire generation of children arguing in backyards over who got to be Ernest Hemingway or Woody Allen instead of Manny Ramirez or Peyton Manning.
Now if you'll excuse me, there's a Red Sox game in Kansas City I have to go and watch.