We sat sandwiched on the futon, our eyes reflecting the images of balls and men throwing themselves on top of other men. “I have never seen you have this little interest in anything before,” Walter said, prying his eyes away from the large flat screen to face me. The wall of boredom lifted from my face for a moment as I smiled, my mind searching for a witty reply: Yeah, and you’ve seen me watch paint dry! or Yeah, and we’ve watched the grass grow together! Instead of spouting clichés, I merely laughed, “It’s true!”
I was duped, lead to Walter’s apartment under false pretenses: Our mutual friend from out of town, John, is visiting! We have beer! Come hang out! I’d just worked a ten-hour day of non-stop geek-madness at New York ComicCon. I wasn’t thinking straight. My only break consumed by a mad dash to the bank to procure a cashier’s check to secure the application for our dream apartment. Beer and friends sounded like the perfect end to a long, stressful day. It never crossed my mind that “hanging out” with John and Walter meant “watching football.” How naive I was, so naive.
But so was Walter. Sweet, naive Walter. Silly boy for thinking I would be someone anyone would ever want to watch football with:
Egh, some of these guys are really chunky. The outfits are so not flattering for tubbos. That quarterback might be cute though. With the tight pants you’d think we’d see cute butts! What? It’s butt padding? What a waste. Come on, real men should risk a broken tail bone to give the ladies something to watch! When did it become a trend for everyone to have long hair? It looks stupid peeking out from the helmets. It’s only the 3rd inning? Football seconds are the longest seconds in the history of time! You realize the intense homoeroticism of grown men grabbing and throwing each other to the floor, right?
That’s just a taste of the experience of watching football with me.
As I’ve mentioned before, and now made even more obvious, I am not a sports person. At all. Pick-up games of kick ball in the parking lot of my summer theater job, each team comprised entirely of actors, using collapsed beer cases as bases- that’s the most organized sport I’ve ever played. I’ve never understood football and have little desire to change that. I can count the number of sporting events I’ve ever attended on one hand. Walter let out numerous whoops, groans, and cheers as he sat beside me, riveted to the game. I was confounded: Why do you care so much? I’ve never understood sports fans.
Until this past week.
Anyone who knows me, even just by being a some-time reader of my blog, knows I hail from the heart of San Francisco. I have an intense pride for my home town, to the point of occasionally wearing flowers in my hair. So when my Facebook wall exploded with status updates that my home team, the San Francisco Giants, were in the play-offs, I found myself caring about sports. I wanted them to go all the way. I went so far as to go to a bar and watch the final 2 innings (still don’t care enough to watch a whole game) of Game 6.
Surprisingly, I do own Giants paraphernalia- an SF Giants baseball cap I purchased at Goodwill for $4 (and then washed of course!) years ago. I can count the times I’ve worn it on one hand and I’m not gonna lie, the Giants’ fanatic I was dating at the time influenced my purchase. The day of the final playoff, make-or-break Game 7, I made a decision that defied all New York cliché fashion: I wore my baseball cap outside of Yankee Stadium and not while working out.
With the black and orange hat (festive for Halloween bonus!) on my head, I suddenly had a context to strangers. I have never had so many normal guys strike up conversations with me. Most of which died with my acute honesty: “You a big fan?” he’d ask. “No. I’m big fan of the city.” I’d reply. I caught a man wearing a St. Louis Cardinals hat glaring at my embroidered “SF”. We made eye contact and he smiled sheepishly. No bad blood, no Yankees-Red Sox insanity. A brief moment of connection with a stranger, it made me smile too.
Community- that’s the thing about sports I never before understood or experienced. Uniting under a common cause, all rooting for the same goal. Fueled by beer, a backdrop of green grass. Before I thought it was just a game. Now I understand how it’s so much more. I already have plans to watch Game 4 (still don’t quite care enough to watch the whole series) with as many of my San Francisco friends as I can gather in this city. Maybe come February, if the 49ers are in the Superbowl, I might just start caring about football. Walter, don’t get too excited.