My husband didn’t fall in love with me because we shared a passion for following sports. I never feigned an interest. While we were dating, I did attend a handful of games with him; I brought a book to one, sat on his lap drinking hot chocolate at another, and joined him along with some of his clients at a White Sox night game—after which in a burst of gratitude and happiness (the Sox won and set off fireworks), he proposed.
Sure, there has been the occasional Super Bowl party I’ve attended, mostly gravitating toward the guacamole and anyone else who did not want to talk football.
Yet, without any encouragement, my husband will frequently call my attention to a replay of some amazing shot, play, putt, foul, catch, hit, or lay-up in whatever game he is currently watching. You might think this is kind of sweet, and maybe it is on some level. But understand that half the time, I have no idea what he is talking about and none of the time, do I care.
Actually, he has many friends who also self-identify as sports nuts. Texts, meetings and dinners revolve around such activities as sports pools and fantasy teams and drafts (these might all be the same thing). It doesn’t help that we live in Chicago, a great sports town with many enthusiastic fans.
I realized that I could pick one sport and make it my thing. That way, I could say, “Well, I don’t really follow hockey; can’t wait for those boys of summer, though.”
Narrowing my focus to a single team would be even better; when my team didn’t make the play-offs, I could sigh, “I’ve got no skin in the game,” and others would just nod knowingly.
All right! I had a plan now. But what sport and which team? Football was a non-starter. I resent the fake football time. Five minutes left in a game easily translates into a half-hour—what is that about?! I envisioned being roped into attending an actual game: arriving a couple hours early for tailgating—standing in a cold, crowded parking lot grilling various meat products while consuming large quantities of beer—only to be followed by more of the same in a cold, crowded stadium. Never going to happen.
Hockey? No, the Blackhawks were too successful. That meant a long season. Soccer? I had put in a lot of hours at my kids’ games, so I had a basic understanding of the rules. But neither my husband, nor anyone I knew, watched professional soccer. Basketball? The Bulls had known stretches of greatness and could never be totally counted out. Rugby? In Chicago, being a fan mostly involved hanging in an Irish pub with hard-drinking, albeit cute, non-nationals. While I do appreciate the grace, artistry and musicality displayed in figure skating and gymnastics, I would be watching on my own—not my objective.
Baseball seemed to be my best bet. After all, I grasped the goals of the game, the weather was generally pleasant, and as a former North-Sider, I could lay legitimate claim to being a Cubbies fan. Most importantly, the Cubs had not won the World Series since 1908 or a pennant since 1945.
Liking the Cubbies worked well for me. I could root for the Cubs and not have to attend, let alone watch, games. I just commented, “I can’t stand to have my heart broken again,” and something about “a curse and a billy goat.” Everyone seemed to understand and even commiserate. My husband bought me a cute pale pink Cubs cap, which I wore proudly. Life was good.
But like Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, who backed Springtime for Hitler, the bottom dropped out for The Loveable Losers and me. No longer a flop, the Cubs are now a young team with unlimited potential. It’s 2016, they’re a winning franchise, and the friendly confines of Wrigley Field have been renovated to reflect that fact. The smart money is betting that the Cubs set records, make the play-offs, clinch the pennant and win the World Series this season. Time for my exit.
Inspiration struck in the form of an alumni invitation: join us for the most exciting two minutes in sports, the Kentucky Derby!” Two minutes? Why had I never thought of horse racing? The object is simple: the fastest horse wins. Hmm, whiling away a lovely spring afternoon with a charming hat on my head and a mint julep in my hand…count me in!
I’ve clearly found my spectator sport. In fact, if things go well, I’m toying with the idea of watching the entire Triple Crown. Join me in the winner’s circle.