Several years ago Kevin invited me and a few other buddies of his over to his old apartment to watch some supposedly really important college football game. When he asked if I wanted to come over to watch the big game, I said sure, who's playing. The answer didn't particularly matter to me. It could have been USC vs Clemson or Southeastern Montana Community College vs DeVry's junior varsity squad, and I'd have trusted his choice of televised sporting events. It was as if he'd said "Hey, do you want to come over and watch footage of this week's Alaskan fish catch?" I wouldn't have known the type of fish or the size of boats or nets used. But I could enjoy the novelty, the physical spectacle of it, nonetheless. I rode the large handful of miles over to his Glendale place on bicycle- which equaled a geographical and cardiovascular adventure- and I embraced the TV-sports-watching phenomenon as best I could.
I asked questions about the technicalities and rules, the relative ranking of the teams and players, and what qualitative information they may have about key players on the screen before us. I know the basics of football, I'm not such a precious, effete and self-absorbed artiste that football appears to me as mysteriously unknowable as 4-Dimensional Dungeons N Dragons or cold fusion aeronautics. I played a bunch of touch football with buddies in the park as a kid and practiced my throwing and catching with my friend Sean. I watched some games on TV and I owned a rugged yet attractively designed official New England Patriots jacket that I loved intensely. When I have gone to or hosted Super Bowl gatherings- which I've lately done more years than not- I can get invested in a tension-filled set of downs and throw my emotional energy into rooting for a courageous comeback. be as locked in to the vicarious game of muscular and gymnastic chess that is high-level football as the next guy, and I'm even able to make short, insightful comments that are the secret (or not-so-secret) pride of every man (and even quite a few women) who are not diagnosed mutes and have immersed themselves in a televised football game since... forever. Sports fandom allows people not only the chance to have a big, complicated, colorfully uniformed dog in a fight, so to speak, facilitating that yearning/aching/triumphant feeling of rooting for something and putting emotional (or even physical) body English out into the universe in a mystical effort to supernaturally affect the outcome. Physicists have said that we actually change objects by looking at them. Perhaps this effect works through the television screen, although how the effects of literally millions of different fans on opposite sides sort out through the cosmic tally sheet- I wouldn't want to be the guy calculating that shit.
For me, agreeing to a sports watching get together (which is rare) is based on the possibility of a fun social hangout, a couple beers, some irresistibly unhealthy food. I have been the guy at my OWN Super Bowl party pointedly told to shut up during the game cause I was chatting with another dude about characters from my elementary school days. I can add pseudo-profound color comments and chalk talk analysis about the game, but I'm more likely to be the guy chatting about comedy, traffic, municipal infrastructure, high-end tacos, the weather or the pros and cons of various cooking oils. My brain easily turns the game into a sort of easy listening background jazz.
I used to be- but am no longer- surprised at the level of disbelief and indignation I encounter when someone who's into sports discovers that I am not. People I don't even know will walk up and say “You gonna' watch the game?”, “Did you watch the game?”, “Who you like in the game.” At first they think I'm joking about not being heavily invested in it. Then, when they finally realize I'm not kidding but actually don't give a fraction of a flying fuck, they feign ridicule which soon turns into scorn and judgment. “He doesn't even care about football” (or other sport). The insinuation is “What a loser. What a weirdo. How NOT the way to a bro.” To me it's not a source of shame but rather a point of pride. I play up my disinterest and ignorance. I purposefully act like I don't even know what sport they're talking about. To those with any ability to read subtlety, I am casting a mild sense of arrogant superiority on their foolish obsession.
So me, Kevin and his friend ended up at a spacious, very colorful emporium called Barney's Beanery to watch the Eagles/Seahawks, a place which I suggested. Barney's has multiple areas with different setups, including a gigantic movie theater-sized screen free-standing in the middle of an area in the middle of the place, with projector TV's on both sides, creating two small stadium-seating theaters, back to back. We took seats in the steeper, bleacher-filled side and I did my best to get into the game. Kevin's friend moved to the US from Norway some years ago- he still has an accent- and he knew a lot more about football than me. Kevin turned to me and enthusiastically shared some piece of inside football analysis: “Hawkins was a seventh round draft pick, but after Vanderhall tore his PCL, he's been making receptions and doing a great job!” In my mind I was thinking, I don't care and I don't know who those guys are. But I gave a vacuous grin and nodded my head, I didn't want to bum my friend out and let him down. I was just trying to be a good sport.