One of my pet peeves, among many others, is how serious people take college and professional sports. What it comes down to for me is that most of the players have an inflated view of themselves, which is continually inflated by the general public, who apparently think that being able to run fast and play with balls is deeply moving and fantastic and worthy of millions of dollars. It's an unfortunate cycle.
I tend towards the camp of, sports are fine, but does playing them cure cancer or care for orphans or really do anything that makes a difference in my world? I guess you can figure out what my answer to that would be.
Being that we are in the middle of "March Madness" and my husband is an avid KU fan (yes, he is currently weeping in shame), I get a little irritated when people sit around talking about sports statistics and news as if it was interesting or all-encompassing. I don't get into sports...I'll watch them, I've enjoyed playing them, but I won't get anxiety about "my" team losing or become ecstatic that "my" team has made the playoffs. Heck, how is it your team anyway? Do you own the team? Are you on the team? Does someone you know and love have a vested interest in the team? You get my point.
So I was thinking about this the other day after I had been forced to listen to some more basketball updates and I began to internally scoff at those who spend so much of their life thinking about, watching, and talking about sports. Those poor unimaginative people.
But then I asked myself what it is that I get into. There are plenty of things I love but one that may affect me the most is Story. I love to get into stories and characters. When I read a good book or get to know great characters in a movie or TV show, it's almost as if they become a real part of my life. I even find myself thinking about those characters at times other than when I'm reading the book or watching the TV show. I compare their experiences to mine and find symbols in their existence that say something about the world. I get completely invested in what will happen to them, so much so that I feel anger or sadness or happiness for those characters when things happen to them. And then, when the book is over or the TV series is cancelled, I feel a sense of loss as I say good-bye.
Now I could make some pretty convincing arguments about why this is different or better than an obsession with particular sports teams, but I think at the heart of these very different interests and identifications is the same core need in us all: the desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves. By grafting ourselves into someone else's story (whether fictional, athletic, or otherwise) we have broadened the narrative of who we are and what we're about. There's no reason for Andrew to root for the Jayhawks, except that he's from Kansas...which, by that logic, would mean he must also root for corn farmers and mullets (haha, just kidding, Andrew). So it's not really about that. It's about finding something that piques your interest and then grabbing at whatever loose straws will connect you to other people, ideas, and movements involving that interest. These things connect people instantaneously. You love the Kansas Jayhawks? You've watched the A & E version of Pride and Prejudice? You're on my team! We can be friends.
So, I guess if I'm honest I'm seeking the same thing Mr. Constant-Stream-of-Sports-Updates is, the reassurance that I'm not in this thing called life by myself and that there is daily proof that the world has meaning greater than just what I bring to it.
I suppose as long as what we graft into our lives is also part of and representative of God's story I can't cast stones at someone else's interests....even if it does make me want to bang my head against a brick wall. But, please, let's make a deal, Sports Fans...I won't regale you with all of the latest happenings of Bilbo Baggins, or Coach Eric Taylor, or Elizabeth Bennet if you can talk about something other than sports for at least a few minutes! Thanks.