I’m often accused of betraying my gender, mostly because I don’t get off on typical Man Things. I’m not a motorhead, don’t play any sports unless you count fly fishing, and the only time I’d consider pumping iron would be if a bunch of weights fell on me and I had to frantically shove them off or die.
Sports are the main point of contention between me and the Manly Men. I’m a proud member of Red Sox Nation–with a sensible hatred of the Yankees–and I deliberately seek out their games on the television, but that’s more to do with my being from New England than my having a Y chromosome. Other than that, though, sports and I have an uneasy relationship at best.
“What about NASCAR? You watch the races, right,” a cousin asked a few months ago.
“I don’t find left turns all that exciting,” I said.
Then I had to run six blocks and hide in a dumpster.
While I’m mostly comfortable with my sports choices, I do feel some shame when I consider two sports that go unwatched in my household.
The first is association football, what we call soccer here in the United States. It’s the most popular sport in the world, capable of driving entire countries into frenzies of fandom and violence, but Americans couldn’t care less about it. There are only two times in recent memory soccer made the news here: when that blonde tore off her shirt at the end of a game; and when the whole world was driven batshit insane by the sound of vuvuzelas during a recent World Cup. Those rare times when I catch a piece of soccer news, I feel guilty for all the fucks I and the rest of my country don’t give.
Then there’s the other source of my sports shame: basketball. I have never once in my life had even the slightest interest in basketball, despite the game’s New England roots and its popularity. The only thing more boring than watching basketball is watching golf. Even a NASCAR race beats it out by offering up the occasional crash to keep things interesting.
Maybe it’s the high scores, or the fact that it’s played indoors, but I don’t even consider basketball a sport. It’s a gym-class game, dreamt up by a sadistic P.E. teacher, and used to torture his Springfield students for an hour a day. Points are flying around, there’s no touching, and it requires the perfect combination of motor skills guaranteed to ensure ridicule for the poor, clumsy bastards that can barely avoid critical injury playing dodgeball. And, of course, the big kids are at even more of an advantage than they usually are.
I swear, basketball has all the elements needed to trigger the kind of violent, high-school flashbacks an armed society would be better off not encouraging.
Thoughts like these surface every time one of my friends posts an update on Facebook, letting everyone know that the Boston Celtics made this or that trade, and we have a fighting chance for a championship this year. I read these notes, see blurbs on the news, and feel ashamed of myself–shame that’s only grown as I broaden other horizons in my life in a quest to find things to write about, and improve my ability to do so.
Writers need to be open-minded, particularly those who would write about the real world and its residents. High-school horror needs to be pushed aside, prejudices eliminated, and new experiences welcomed with open arms.
If a journalist can’t follow and write about a sport he hates, how can he ever hope to write a balanced piece about an individual or group with a core philosophy he finds repulsive? If you can’t write about the Celtics with an open mind, how the hell could you write about a hate group?
Don’t think about that comparison for too long; I certainly didn’t.
So it’s with a heavy heart, but the greatest of hope, that I pick up a gauntlet I, myself, have thrown down. This year I intend to follow basketball–specifically the Celtics–and write about my adventures. It will be a series of pieces not just about the sport and the success or failure of my home team, but also about one new-to-the-game journalist’s quest for fair and balanced reporting.
I’ll follow this beloved team from the pre-season right up until the championship should they make it that far. And with any luck, by the time that championship comes around, I’ll actually know what it’s called.