It isn’t like I’m insulated. Inside the boy-house where I live, the sports presence is nearly year-round. The boys refer to people by their last names and describe behaviors I’ve never heard of. They punctuate their running spectator commentaries as they watch a game with abrupt, spirited yelling. The intonation of an announcer’s voice over the din of a crowd, the exuberant swearing at disappointing plays, and the horns (or whatever they’re called) which bleat for no apparent reason are all usual sounds.
No matter. Non-spectators like myself are not drawn by proximity to such activity. Nor do we want to change the activity. Non-spectators like myself have learned to deal with proximity to such activity by changing the proximity. Make a deposit, get the car washed, fill the tank, buy groceries. Non-spectators start Monday mornings with bright eyes and very short to-do lists.
Occasionally, however, there are exceptions. Occasionally it’s necessary to know something about a particular championship because if you don’t, you will feel the way you would if you didn’t know who was running for president. You will go to work and have to endure endless references to some game, some play, and people will look in your direction from time to time with sympathy, as though you’ve just arrived from another planet without language skills or limbs. Occasionally, even if you use the endless hours perched before a sporting event to think through unsolved problems, organize your next project, shop Ann Taylor online from your phone, or plan the week’s menus, it’s still necessary to walk into work armed with a sound bite or two.
And, the truth? It’s lonely belonging to such a tiny minority of non-spectators. And, the more important truth? This year, “Our” team has a better than good chance of winning the Superbowl. I more than should know about this. I want to know.
Lucky me, I live with a sportswriter who can explain anything and a seventeen-year-old who can illustrate anything on a post-it for easy, later review. A couple of weeks ago, I approached them.
“What is this championship all about and who’s involved?”
In seconds, one showed me a table of the six best in both the AFC and the NFC as well as the “ones to watch” in the anticipated play-offs. The other had drawn tiny pictures of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on a post-it along with their descriptions: “psycho machine boss,” and “fast and skinny.”
I began to understand. Only a little faster than the pace at which grass grows, but still - I began to understand.
“Wait,” I said. “Our Patriots could win this?”
God love them, they responded to this with silence.
So, I’ve been studying for the Patriots-Ravens game, asking questions and understanding the answers. For an hour last week, while I drove home from Boston alone, I listened to 107.7 to learn how the Texans did against the Ravens, knowing “Our Patriots” would have an easier time of it if they faced off against Yates.
Yes, I know who Yates is.
It’s worth asking yourself to the party sometimes. It’s worth asking to be taught something you don’t know but will know well if you try. And tomorrow, I not only want this game to go right, I want to participate in the excitement if it does. On Monday, when I go into work, I want to hear someone say, “How about those Patriots?” and not get involved with something else when someone responds.
And next year, when I feel less like a novice, I will call them “Pats” like everyone else in the United States does, except for those ten or twelve.
But for now, Go Patriots. Don’t make me sorry for loving you.