Columns

2013.12.31 Obsessive over sports

on . Posted in By The Way

By TAYLOR BALLINGER

*I’m long overdue for a column, so this week I just decided to write two. The good news, people who don’t like to read the stuff I write can finish the paper in record time this week.*

I have a problem. I likely have many problems, but the one I’d like to open up about today is all too common in today’s world. Men and women alike are afflicted across this great nation, and how wide and far it may yet spread remains unknown. I’m talking, of course, about my addiction to sports.

I come to you today not to offer any eloquent description as to the root and meaning of my problem. I am neither qualified for nor capable of such a psychological expedition. No, I am here today to simply come clean.

As a child, I was interested in little else. My parents asked me about the Boy Scouts or about piano lessons. “Do they play ball in those activities,” I’d ask? “Of course not,” they’d reply. And so for those pillars of the American youth experience, I had little need.  

The moment I knew that my obsession was too deep was when, at the age of seven, I cried myself to sleep following a heartbreaking loss for my favorite team, the Kentucky Wildcats.

Many of you remember “The Shot.” As a young boy I jumped crazily around the room as Sean Woods banked home a running jumper in the lane to give my Wildcats a one-point lead with just two seconds to play against Duke. Of course, what happened next lives on in the annals of history as one of the greatest shots in the history of basketball. I still can’t watch the replay of Christian Laettner’s (a blasphemous name in the Bluegrass State) miraculous shot to this day. (Especially considering he should have never been in the game at that point after he stomped on Aminu Timberlake’s chest earlier in the contest…but I digress).

You’d think that after such a traumatizing experience I’d put my guard up a bit more. Maybe quit obsessing over games in which other people are playing (people I don’t even know!!) should have no bearing on my happiness. But no. The fixation remains. I no longer cry at the outcomes of games, but if the Packers lose on a Sunday I’m not particularly approachable for the remainder of the day. And I’ll forgo my beloved sports page the next day, just so I won’t be faced with the pain of the loss and ruin my Monday, as well.

I’m sure a lot of people have similar reactions to their favorite teams losing, and at least I’m not destroying beloved landmarks that an Alabama fan did to the tree in Auburn, or throwing my television against the wall. But still, I’m pushing 30 years old and have two kids. Shouldn’t I be a little less concerned about the comings and goings of a team full of kids who are, on average, several years younger than I? Does Aaron Rodgers get down in the dumps if I screw up an important meeting?

Perhaps my admission isn’t terribly surprising. I, like many red-blooded Americans, have always loved the major sports. As a Kentuckian, basketball is in my soul. I’m a New Orleans Saints season-ticket holder and a Green Bay Packer shareholder. My mother kept me awake the night Pete Rose broke the all-time hits record for my beloved Cincinnati Reds (I was three-months old). These are the true American pastimes, so my passion for them is likely understandable. 

But I think my obsession has gone into high gear of late. A few years ago I started following soccer. A 2006 trip to Italy (and a professional soccer match there), followed by the World Cup that summer solidified my fascination with the sport. I’ve been known, now, to ignore relatives at a family-gathering to watch the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers square-off in a mid-season MLS showdown. 

Then, in 2010, I spent a summer in Canada and started following hockey. I don’t know anything about hockey, really, but when NBC starts carrying games every weekend after football season, will I be glued to the television? Absolutely.

And, most recently, I’ve begun watching copious amounts of cricket. I blame ESPN and their ‘Watch ESPN’ app on the iPad, but last week I watched a cricket match between New Zealand and The West Indies until 2:30 in the morning. I’ve even bookmarked the Wikipedia page that explains the rules of cricket so I can follow along. I don’t know anybody who knows anything about the sport. So it’s not like I have another person to talk to about the result the next day. 

Three new sports over the past seven years. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if I didn’t have a full time job and a family. 

Of course there is a silver lining. One of Caroline’s first phrases was “Go Reds!”, and Elizabeth already has two outfits she can wear to games next summer. Now, my obsession with sports can turn into high quality family time. That’s a win-win situation.

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