Even though I was unathletic, sometimes I’d play vacant-lot sports with the neighborhood boys. I was marginally competent as a goalie in soccer and on defense in football, the latter largely because I was a little bigger than the other kids. Otherwise, I couldn’t catch, I couldn’t hit, and I threw so badly that the other kids nicknamed me Crazy Arms.
Fortunately, my sorry skills didn’t make it too tough for me to grow up in my sports-loving home. Even though Dad had been a top pitcher in local baseball and my brother played football and ran cross country, my family mostly watched sports on TV. We got cable in 1972 (for $2.99 a month) so Dad could watch the White Sox all summer. In the autumn, Dad watched Notre Dame football on Saturday afternoons and the Bears on Sunday afternoons. In the winter, it was Notre Dame basketball, of course. My brother watched with Dad, and they were a study in contrast. Dad sat through every game motionless and silent, leaning slightly forward in his La-Z-Boy, grave-faced over every play. My brother was explosive, jumping and shouting with joy for the successes and in anger over the failures, especially when his beloved Steelers played.
I tried to watch some games with my dad and brother, since it seemed like this was what men did. I even sat through a couple Steelers Super Bowls with my brother (one year rooting hard for the Cowboys, in vain, just to be contrary). While I learned to follow the games halfway sort of reasonably well,
nothing about them ever resonated with me. Increasingly, I found myself anywhere but the living room on game days. I just wasn’t interested. It seems I had not inherited the sports gene, and in time I became okay with that.
So as an adult, sports has been on my TV maybe a half-dozen times, always when somebody visited and wanted to watch a game. I didn’t even watch the Colts in the 2007 Super Bowl. I may have been the only man in Indianapolis who went to bed at 10 p.m. that night.
I’ve missed out on some opportunities because I don’t play or follow sports. Among men, small talk often turns to sports, and I have nothing to say. The guy who founded the company I work for is a big Notre Dame fan, and when he found out I’m from South Bend he always wanted to talk Notre Dame football with me. I did a lot of nodding and smiling, but I was missing a great opportunity to get tight with the big boss. Many places I’ve worked, guys get together for golf, but I’m out since I hung up my clubs in indifference (and 75-stroke scores for 9 holes) years ago. These golf circles usually include people at all levels of the company, giving regular employees access to vice presidents. I have to gain access to the big guys in other ways.
On the balance, though, I’m happy without sports. Not watching sports frees up my weekends, and I save a ton of money on green fees.