I do not really like sports, especially football. I know, that is a very strange way to begin a sports column.
I am a graduate student and I have only been to one football game. No, I am not talking about Colorado State games, or games this year. I have only been to one football game ever.
I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I just do not care.
It did not take me long to realize that I was not alone in not caring about sports. There was a group of people who, like me, hid from Super Bowl parties, who also like me, never knew what to say when an acquaintance asked, “Did you catch the game this weekend?” when I never catch games. People like me who just totally fail to see the appeal of this huge cultural phenomenon. I fondly nicknamed these people ‘sports dummies.’ Thus emerged Sports for Dummies.
I wrote Sports for Dummies weekly for a year at Washington State, where I did my undergrad, and then hilariously I won a Society for Professional Journalists Sports Writing Award. I was sad to let the column go when I went to grad school – so here I am, picking it back up again. Given the reactions I have heard about the stadium on campus, there will not be a shortage of sports dummies on this campus either.
Being part of a group that does not care much about sports begs the question – why has our society decided so unilaterally that sports are important?
The love of sports goes back to pretty much the beginning of civilization. Every culture had its games, whether those were wrestling, gladiator matches or obscure ancient Egyptian ball games. Sports and religion are probably the two more enduring factors in human history – things that have always been there, always mattered to people, and probably are not going anywhere anytime soon.
The thing is, sports are arbitrary. It is hard for my fellow sports dummies and I to really get emotionally invested in a game. And it is not that I am not a competitive person – I am competitive about things that I think matter. For example, I am a three-time Washington state guinea pig champion. I was very competitive about that. But whether my state’s sports team beat your state’s sports team? I could not care less.
Yet whenever I go visit family members they ask where I am going to school, and immediately the conversation turns to that school’s football team – the ups, the downs, the stars and the injuries. I have learned to smile and nod and know just enough sporting buzzwords to have a polite conversation. This, it seems to me, is the crux of the importance of sports in our culture.
Sports provide a common ground for people to begin a relationship. It is not always easy to relate to everybody around you, especially people you do not know well. My extended family does not know all that much about me, and sports is an easy topic to begin to feel like we are building a relationship.
For my sports dummies who would rather Netflix sitcoms than watch a game, just think of the episode of “New Girl” when Jess pretends she likes basketball in order to become friends with Coach. All of us sports dummies do that every day.
Sure, I would have a more enjoyable conversation if my acquaintances and I bonded by talking about books and current events. But sports are a topic people feel comfortable with and it serves as the basis for relationships.
From an outside perspective, it seems to me that sports are even more about the societal bonding than they are about the teams themselves, although I am sure some sports fans would argue that point with me.
Sports dummies, you are under no obligation to like sports. Just keep in mind when people start trying to talk sports with you, they probably are not doing it to have a deep conversation about the merits of various teams and athletes. They are doing it to get to know you, so the polite thing to do is just to smile and have a conversation. Starting conversations with people is hard, and sports make it easy. Even if you do not like sports, that is something anybody can respect.
Collegian sports columnist Michelle Fredrickson can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mfredrickson42