I’m a huge sports fan, and have been for as long as I can remember. I think my fascination really took hold, though, when I was about 14 and I went to my first Dallas Cowboys training camp while visiting my aunt and uncle in California. I remember running around trying to get all the players’ autographs, and Mike Ditka, who was an assistant coach at the time, patted me on the head and said, “Sure thing, darlin’.” (Many years later I went to Cowboys training camp as a member of the press and watched the practices right from the sidelines, and as I walked off the field, people were asking me for my autograph. Surreal!) Anyway, from that point on, I’ve been hooked.
I can’t even begin to guess how many hours of football, basketball, baseball, hockey, tennis, soccer, boxing, gymnastics, you name it, I’ve watched over the years, either in person or on the tube. Heck, I’ll take a good, spirited curling match over some uninspired, retread TV show or movie any day.
In one respect, it’s the idea of seeing people really push themselves that intrigues me. To practice for hours on end, to play through the pain, and in some cases, do nothing but eat, drink, and sleep their respective sport. But more so, I think, it’s the human drama of it all I love, even more so than the actual action on the playing field. For instance, in baseball, the pitcher’s job is to strike out the batter, and the batter’s job is to not get struck out by the pitcher. So it’s an eternal battle, and only one can win. I just can’t imagine having to deal with that sort of conflict and loss in my everyday job. Maybe too it stems from the fact that I had severe asthma when I was growing up and so I was pretty much resigned to watching sports rather than playing them.
Whatever the reason, if anyone had any doubt about my being a sports fan, consider this past Sunday, when I got up at 3:30 a.m. to watch Roger Federer take on Rafael Nadal in the men’s final of the Australian Open (which was being broadcast live, thus the early hour). It ended up going to five sets, with Nadal pulling out a dramatic victory after more than 4 hours and 23 minutes of hard-fought play. At the trophy ceremony, Federer broke down and cried.
I ask you, how many other things can you do that are so meaningful and dramatic that it brings a grown man to tears?
Later in the day was Super Bowl XLIII. I only got to watch the fourth quarter, but luckily, that’s when all the good stuff happened anyway. In the final 10 minutes or so, it was a back and forth game, with Pittsburgh clinching victory in the last seconds of the game on a Hail Mary pass to Santonio Holmes in the end zone.
Yup, when it comes to entertainment, sports just can’t be beat.