I’m thinking about becoming a sports fan. It’s only fair, now that Marvel comics and Star Wars and all the other stuff I loved as a kid has become mainstream, now that you can wear a Deadpool shirt to a baseball game and sit in the stands without being taunted or pummeled. Now that these dudes who used to trade football cards on the school bus and get really picky about their seat-mates feel comfortable strutting into the comic book store and casually mentioning their mint copy of Spawn #1, still in the bag (and unbeknownst to them worth about a dollar,) and pontificating about how Daniel Way’s classic run on Wolverine really solidified the character as an A-list property, like Larry fucking Hama never lived and breathed and sat down behind a typewriter and breathed life into Elsie-Dee and Lady Deathstrike.
Oh, you don’t know about Elsie-Dee?
We’ll see how these jockensteins like it when the script is flipped, when I walk into the bar wearing a KC Royals shirt with the tag still attached and recite three things I scanned off Wikipedia, passing this information off as the reflections of a life-long fan.
I probably won’t do that, actually.
But it might be interesting to become a sports fan. I’d have an easier time talking to people at parties. Bringing up George Saunders as an ice breaker when I was in school getting an MFA worked like a charm, but in the real world people want to know what you think about Tom Brady. And you can’t just say “he’s so handsome.” Or maybe you can, but it doesn’t really propel the conversation forward.
For years I’ve skated on knowing nothing about sports at parties by, when someone says something like, “You see the Bulls last night?” rolling my eyes and shaking my head as though too frustrated to put my thoughts into words, leaving the floor open for the other person to keep talking, supplying me with context clues by which to navigate the conversation, padded out by whatever sports news I vaguely remember Letterman cracking jokes about in recent monologues.
But imagine if I could actually hold a conversation about sports. Imagine if I had opinions, imagine me striking up not just a conversation but a friendship with some other sports guys, getting invited to go out and watch games with them and to backyard cookouts at their homes, maybe starting an affair with one of their wives that seems like a dangerous fling at first but quickly evolves into a very real, passionate love… imagine her leaving her husband for me, which would pretty much be the end of those friendships but that’s okay, because we’d have each other and before long I’d meet more guys who like sports and start hanging out with them.
That would be pretty awesome. Unless the husband of the woman, seeking revenge, started leaving dead animals in our driveway and following us everywhere and then one night, in a drunken rage, broke into our house and tied us up and threatened to burn us all up, and thinking fast I’d make a bet with him that he’d have to let us go if he couldn’t answer three riddles, but I don’t know three riddles and probably won’t by then, either, in this hypothetical future, because I’m going to be too busy learning about sports and hanging with sports friends and then fucking this guy’s wife and falling in love with her and so on and so forth.
So at that extreme becoming a sports fan actually sounds like a bad move. But maybe, I don’t know…maybe the guy breaks in and ties us up and he’s going to kill us but then he has this moment of clarity where he’s like, What have I become? And then he lets us go, leaves and dedicates his life to feeding the hungry or something.
I mean, anything could happen.
I’ll have to decide which sport to become a fan of. Baseball springs to mind first as there are some baseball movies I quite like, and also baseball has some cultural significance, a special place in the mythology of America, this game that’s been around for ages and spawned all these legends.
Maybe part of the reason Americans like baseball so much is that they’re drawn to a game predicated on the idea that anything can happen when the batter hits the ball, it can go anywhere, and that to succeed everyone needs to be ready and work together so harmoniously that they might as well be of a single mind. Maybe Americans like to see themselves that way, as teammates who come together in the face of adversity, but that’s kind of a fantasy version of once upon a time America, right? If baseball really wanted to mirror the modern American character, the infield would charge the batter as soon as he took his first swing, regardless of if he actually hit the ball, and tear him limb from limb. They’d dance around in his blood while the outfielders argued over whether killing the batter was morally justified.
The pitcher would stand there vaping.
Or you know, maybe all that “likeminded teammates working together in harmony” stuff is the way baseball fans like to see themselves when it’s really all about the guy at bat, the supremacy of the individual against organized opposition. Maybe it’s all about homeruns and stealing bases because at the end of the day, you cross home plate alone.
Or maybe that’s all gibberish. I think there’s something to it, though, because in my experience baseball fans tend to be the most callous, egotistical, and cruel of all sports aficionados. When I got my ear pierced in seventh grade, it was primarily kids on the baseball team that called me a fag and tried to pull the stud out with their fingers.
I know some baseball fans that are good people. Look, you’re reading this and you like baseball, I’m not talking about you. Unless I am. Look in the fucking mirror and make that call on your own.
How about football? I’ve known some dickhead football fans but they’ve all tended to be less aggressive than the baseball people. I don’t think I can learn all those rules, though. So much structure. It always confused me in elementary school that we’d spend all day in class, abiding this stifling set of regulations, and during the ten minutes allotted in the middle of the day for recess most of the boys would play of all things football, a game with more rules than action, a game so regimented that I’d be afraid to take a deep breath at the wrong moment lest I accidentally cost my side some yardage.
I’d hang out with the girls during recess instead. They weren’t exactly cutting loose and running around screaming like lawless savages, either—more forming intense friendships and using this intimacy to identify and exploit one another’s fears and flaws, as young girls do. The stakes were way higher with the girls than on the football field, and the only rules were self-imposed and organized around one’s willingness to manipulate and inflict pain upon another human being. It was great.
You know what? Maybe what I actually want isn’t to become a sports guy, it’s to become a parent.
But see, if I’m going to do that I’m going to need to get into sports, first, so I can make these new friends and steal one of their wives.
Maybe I can get into basketball? It’s a fast paced game, which is good.
What I should do, really, is cross-reference sports fans I already know with the desirability of their wives, and go from there. Maybe I have some acquaintance who loves basketball and has a bored blonde wife, that would be ideal. Better, cross-reference sports fans I know whom I could easily take in a fight with the desirability of their wives. That way I won’t have to bother learning any riddles.