May 2011

MAY 2011: A Line in the Sand - A Man's Obsession with Sports

Author: Frank Dunne, Jr. & Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Photography by Anne

With this column (whatever we ended up calling it) Courtney and I are supposed to transcend its predecessor’s battle of the sexes format, but then she threw down this question: “How about men’s obsession with sports? You don’t own the teams or have any financial stake in the game, yet you yell at the TV like your life depends on it. Why?” I had to bite. I had to take one for the team. So please bear with us this time.

How about men’s obsession with sports? If this were radio, you’d hear my exasperated sigh in this space. Typical woman, eh guys? Can’t you just feel the screechy, grating, nagging tone?

What do you mean men’s obsession anyway? Ever been to a sports bar on a fall Sunday afternoon? There are an awful lot of jersey-clad women in there drinking beer and raising hell side-by-side with the guys. Why don’t you ask one of them the same question?

(Okay, fine. It’s Courtney’s birthday this month so we’ll humor her and let that one pass.)

I have my own question for the ladies in Camp Courtney. Why is it that just because you don’t share our enthusiasm for something you go right to the knee-jerk reaction and deride it as obsession, dysfunctional behavior or delusion? You’ve got your shoes and your manicures. Why can’t we have our sports?

Look! The guys are watching the game! They’re getting excited! They’re having fun! Oh my God! They’re obsessed!

Tell you what. Let us watch the game, and you go on out and buy some shoes to add to the 152 pairs that you already have in your closet. Oh, no! Of course there’s nothing obsessive or irrational about that. I mean, you’ve got two feet like everybody else, so logically it follows that you need 304 shoes.

Men’s obsession with sports. Give me a break!

Yeah, we love sports. Love ’em with a passion. And we get excited and demonstrative when we watch the games. We feel a connection. Know why? Because we played the games, and we relate to what’s going on out there. We weren’t good enough to go pro; all we had was love of the game. We still have it, so we play recreationally, but we’re also spectators because we appreciate seeing the games we love played at the highest level. If you admire an author’s work, you read his books, don’t you? It’s the same thing.

It’s how we bond. We get together with friends to watch the game, share moments and create memories. Fathers watch with their sons and go have a catch or a game of Horse at halftime.

You girls go shopping, or to the spa to have your feet tickled by a little Vietnamese guy and do whatever else it is you do there, and we watch “The Game.” Everybody’s happy. Your man’s gonna be really happy when he sees you looking so beautiful and radiant fresh from the spa. See? It’s the perfect plan.

Yeah, we get a little loud and boisterous at times, but that’s because we’re boys. We’re wired to be aggressive, intense, and competitive. There’s drama and tension on the field—fourth and goal, a ticking clock, trip to the Super Bowl a yard away—and it’s palpable even on TV. We feel it and we emote accordingly. Do you cry at a chick flick? It’s the same thing.

Is any of this really such a stretch for the female mind? Millions of girls and women play sports, too. I bet they get it. Am I right all you awesome, beautiful, incredibly sexy athletic women?

There, I just gave you another reason that we love sports!

One last thing. We’re not yelling at the TV. That would be crazy. We’re yelling at the players on the screen.

Happy Birthday, Darling!

***************

Frank, Frank, Frank. Dear sweet Frank. I’ve got you right where I want you. At press time, your last four Facebook posts (in just two days) are all sports related. In one weekend you couldn’t even muster up a little love for the beautiful spring weather? Hellooooo. Obsession!

Listen. I am a sports fan. In fact, I probably know more than the average lady. Heck, I even have a fantasy football team that boasted an 8-0 start to last season. Further, one of the items on my bucket list is to see a game at every Major League stadium. Listen, I’m no slouch when it comes to sports.

So now that we’ve leveled the playing field (pun intended), let’s talk about the “my team” phenomenon. This is where the man becomes so obsessed with “his team,” that you gently have to point out that he has no stake in the game, match, or contest.

We all know this guy. (Ahem, Frank Dunne.) He screams at the newspaper, the television, the players, the announcers—whatever form of media is bringing him his sporting content. Worse yet, if he is at the sporting event live, he calls out to the players by their first name, as if he’s earned that level of familiarity. (Frank, you’ll want to reference your Masters Sunday Facebook posts to your good friend, “Tiger.”)
His passion is fueled by a fire that burns in his belly—full of beer. And he reacts in a way that would cause anyone of average intelligence to assume that he owns the team, or is a member of the team, or was at one time on the team, or has some stake in a winning season. But alas—no! He is simply a fan. The game is over. Rip up your ticket like the rest of us and move on.

I understand that this is a generations-old problem. In 1979, my father came home from work devastated and in tears. My mother couldn’t get out of him what was wrong. Her mind raced. Did my grandfather die? Did one of my father’s fellow firefighters get hurt on the job? What could be so wrong that it rendered a grown man nearly catatonic? Two words. Thurmon Munson. Yup, the New York Yankees catcher perished in a plane crash that day, and my father was devastated. (Important to note that in my almost 38 years, this is the only instance of my father crying of which I am aware.)

As I pondered this topic, my better half became the unwilling case study. He was hypersensitive to my scrutiny, and I was keenly aware of all sports-related hysteria. For example, while taking our morning walk, he checked his Blackberry, did a little hop-skip number, and elatedly declared, “We won! Whew. We were on a two-game skid.” Oh really sweetie, a skid? Gotcha.

Or better yet, during the final round of the Masters, while Frank was Facebooking Tiger Woods, my guy was whispering to the television. “Go in.” He inched to the edge of his seat. “Go in.” He leaned forward with interest. “Go in.” His voice cracked, with anticipation. “Ohhhhhh.” Disappointment washed over his face and he slumped back against the pillows.

I love a man who has passion. I’d also love the ferocity of that passion to be directed toward me, and I suspect that the majority of ladies would agree. I’m willing to—and I do—equally distribute my passion between said beau and my wardrobe, pedicures, and shoe collection. I’ll sit on the couch, after making him dinner, paint my toenails, and root for my Red Sox.

I get it. You love “your team.” But have they ever loved you back?

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