Illustration by Josh Hagler
Wednesday October 3, 2001
Barry Bonds is one home run shy of the record that just two years ago brought a nation back to its sport. Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player who ever lived in the whole, wide world - ever, is returning to the NBA as a Wizard. Randy "The Big Unit" Johnson is close to breaking broken Nolan Ryan's record of total number of strikeouts in one season.
One year ago today, these facts would have meant absolutely nothing to me, nothing at all. But now, dear friends, they mean something to me, something at all. Allow me to explain.
I used to hate sports. I would have rather watched just about anything else. I've seen every episode of the Golden Girls, for example. I couldn't figure out what all the emotion was about when my parents held Super Bowl parties. My dad used to take me to see Cardinals' games and I would just play tag with the other kids in all the empty seats. I collected baseball cards for a while, but it was only because of the moneymaking potential they offered.
But my life changed right around the time of the NCAA Tournament's Sweet Sixteen last year.
After three and a half years on this campus I finally fell victim to the Wildcat fever.
I found myself looking forward to every game, making each one an event and a reason to go to bars and drink with friends. As though I need one. I even had favorite players: Eugene Edgerson (mostly because I had Music 100 with him) and Luke Walton (mostly because I saw him backstage at a Dylan show and I imagine that he smokes lots and lots of pot).
I was genuinely upset when they lost to Duke. I swore off sports because of the pain I felt - and then I discovered Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers.
I fell into that trap during Philly's series with the Milwaukee Bucks. I never had a real allegiance to any team in my entire life, but during the following weeks, I came to love the Sixers (even Geiger) with all of my heart, respect but not root for the Bucks and finally, loath, I repeat, loath the Lakers with every atom in my body.
The look on Shaq and Kobe's faces when they lost the first game of the finals after so many people predicted their utter domination is something that will stay with me forever.
While that was bad enough, it got worse. I started checking the Sports Illustrated Web page every day. All sports were of interest. I found myself looking at statistics and trying desperately to figure out what they could possibly mean. I even learned a good deal of the rules of cricket.
I knew I was a goner, though, when I found myself watching girls' softball. It happened by accident at first. I was home alone and bored, so I turned on the television and there it was: girls' softball. I loved it.
I don't know how many games I watched after that first one, but it was a lot, and I loved every one of them. Granted, it helped tremendously that Jennie Finch was leading the team, dominating every game absolutely. She is untouchable as a pitcher, standing on the mound with grace, poise and confidence, then hurling the ball past every batter with the natural intensity of a starving lioness.
And let's just face it· she's hot. She's really, really hot. Hot, hot. Fire hot, but not your everyday ordinary fire, like that blue fire that's extra-special hot. And she can call or e-mail me at any time. Really. Anytime at all. · Er· Back to the subject at hand.
I was certain that once the football seasons started up, I would get lost in them, watching them unceasingly, but it has yet to happen. It just hasn't ignited the same craving and attachment those other sports did.
I think there's a reason for it and here it is:
One thing that I've noticed about all of my sporting encounters is that I become truly interested at the end of the season. When things are beginning to crescendo to the finale, during playoffs and championships, I really get interested. It's more exciting.
I feel like there's really something on the line, and I like it. We need to feel that way sometimes, and I'll take it where I can get it.
There are some sports fans out there who will say this doesn't make me a true fan, but I've thought about it and I'm pretty sure I don't care. Wait· wait· Yup, I don't care.