By Joel Holland
Yesterday I noticed my brother’s new issue of Sports Illustrated Kids on the counter. Flipping through it felt like I was reading a foreign language textbook with cool pictures. I landed on a page with an “Athlete of The Year” chart.
“Uhh, who was the 2007 high school boys basketball Athlete of the Year?”
Luke is ten. He understands sports. He’s been raised by a father who understands sports. I was raised by the same father, but I don’t understand sports. At all. Since I’ve grown up hearing people talk about it, sometimes I know enough to act like I know what I’m talking about (meaning I know Skip Bayless yells a lot and Lambeau Field is cold), but people usually see right through my charade, as they should.
When I was in elementary school, I played on a YMCA soccer team. My parents often bring up a particular game when I had the ball, I was dribbling, I had an open shot, and I stopped. I saw my friend Gracie! She was on the other team, but she was still my friend.
“Hey Gracie! How’s your day going?”
Someone took the ball and ran across the field. My team groaned.
The gravity of a 4-1 loss was, well, lost on me. Since then I tried basketball, baseball, badminton, and I even joined a swimming team. I enjoyed the experience for the people I met, but never the sport. I can enjoy watching a game every now and then, but if I’m honest, it has a lot to do with the snacks in front of me and the company I’m with. I hear people compare names from the “roster” or the “starting line” of any given game, and I have a hard time keeping track of the people I know. When I’m tempted to make a juvenile jab at my friends for memorizing statistics for people they’ll never meet, I also find myself impressed at their dedication.
I’m learning to be slower about making snarky comments. When I was first introduced to the television show Psych, I watched the premiere and had enough. I was not impressed. Whenever it was brought up, I rolled my eyes and made a less-than-clever remark.
Months later I got a cold, and when you get sick, procrastinating and binge watching a show is even more tempting than usual. So, I gave Psych another try and fell in love. The 80’s references, the guest stars, the unique forty minute crime/comedy setup, the chemistry between the characters. Four months ago it was awful, but now, it had become my show. Now there are some shows my friends watch that I’m fairly certain I’ll never understand. But do I have to understand it? No, not really. Psych showed me that there may be many things I don’t appreciate now, but will later.
As I’ve gotten older, I tend to feel more entitled to having others share my opinion. For instance, if someone doesn’t appreciate Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, my instinct is to explain to them why they’re wrong and probably had a pretty messed up childhood. But you know what? There was a time when I didn’t appreciate it. It took three people telling me I needed to watch it. There are things our friends adore that we may never understand, but it might be worth giving it a shot.
One Saturday I was in town with my dear friend, Andrew Graham, who happens to be a knitter. We ended up in a mobile knitting station. I didn’t know they existed. While he was shopping and having conversation with someone else, one of the ladies showed me all the various kinds of fabrics they had. She told me about the different knitting groups in the area.
At the end of her monologue, she smiled and asked, “So, what do you think?”
I smiled, looked around, and gave her the natural response, “Well there’s definitely a lot of colors!”
Her eyes appropriately widened to the shape of saucers, and she said, “Oh honey, you have to see the mothership!”
I always had a respect for Andrew, but then, after giving it a chance and stepping on board, I discovered a newfound respect (and perhaps healthy fear) for one of his hobbies and the knitting community at large.
Whether or not I ever understand sports (I won’t), they will continue to play a role in my life, because they will continue playing a role in the lives in those around me. People in my life, important people in my life, cherish things that I don’t understand, just like I cherish things that they don’t understand, and I am learning to be okay with that.
They tell me football season is starting again. From my room I can hear the commentators over a game, and after years of growing up around people that love the game, I’ve found something strangely comforting about it. I’m still not sure I know what a running back is, and I still don’t understand sports, but hey, I can appreciate that others appreciate them.