Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Through Variegated Lenses
I didn't come by my love of sports, and my particular love of basketball, in any regular way. I never played any sports - I'm tiny in all directions and unathletic. For that matter, so are most of my family; the last time a family member played organized sports was when my brother was in Little League, and my tallest relation is 5'8". Apart from football on Saturdays and sometimes Sundays - which I seldom paid attention to - my family didn't particularly watch sports, either. No, my love of sports didn't come from my family or my childhood, which is how I think most fans become fans. Rather than have it ingrained in me, it snuck up on me one afternoon and then never left.
One early spring day when I was about fifteen, I turned on the television and a game came on. I was bored. I watched. And pretty soon, I couldn't not watch. I couldn't turn away, even when my family came in and laughed at me; even though I didn't know the players and had probably never heard of at least one of the teams; even though I'd never watched a basketball game in my life. The game itself is what got me. I've posted before on how much, and vaguely why, I love it, so I won't do so now; I'll only say that the game well and truly grabbed me. So, I watched more games. I became more familiar with teams and players, I learned what the terms meant. And, since I didn't know any at my school and didn't know how to find and befriend them, I searched for other fans on the internets.
I found other girls online that were into sports, girls that were older than me, that were intelligent and excellent writers, and who knew a lot more about basketball than I did (or do). This was, in the interest of full disclosure, on livejournal - yes, I know, I'm a teenaged girl, I've had a livejournal since I was twelve. That kind of interaction influenced me in probably more ways than I can name. For one, I picked up their loyalties. My friend in Denver loved the Nuggets; I learned all about the Nuggets, about Eddie and Melo and JR and AI, from what she wrote. My friend in Phoenix loved the Suns; I couldn't help but see the light. My friend in Orlando loved Dwight; after reading her posts for a while, I did too. I got started on team loyalties that weren't my own, and progressed from there.
My closest of these friends, at UF by way of New York, could care less about professional basketball - she loves the Yankees, the Giants, and the Gators. But she writes for a paper (a published one! on paper!), and therefore has sports caché with me. (A real newspaper! She's only in college!) I followed the links on her page to, among others, Kissing Suzy Kolber. The first post I read was "Fuck It, I'm Throwing It Downfield"; that was my introduction to dedicated sports blogging. And, after following the link on KSK to FreeDarko, I thought: Oh my God. I have truly found my people.
In the midst of all this, I started watching the Gators play. Of course, my eye was first caught by the team's most hirsute player, but soon I fell in love with the team as a whole. And pretty soon after that, they won a national championship. And a year after that - a year I spent working concessions at the O'Dome and watching all the basketball I could - they won another. Now, this was the Gators. I was born in Gainesville. I've spent my life surrounded by people in orange and blue, and now the Gator team of my chosen favorite sport was making history. It was, needless to say, a pleasant way to get started as a basketball fan.
When I say I fell in love with the team, I mean it. I went to every game I could, and watched every other game from start to finish on television - I think I only missed one in the whole season between the first championship and the second. I not only rooted for them to win, I was afraid that they would lose. In the tournament, this became terror; I just knew they would throw away a game, and then it would all be over. But they were unstoppable - with five exceptions - and I knew that that was true, deep down. It still hurt me when they lost, and it still scared me when they played it close.
It hurt, to care that much. But after they won the second one, I relaxed; and after Corey, Taurean, Joakim and Al declared, and after C-Rich and Lee graduated, I promised myself I'd never care that much about a single team again. But that team, and that kind of team loyalty, were the foundations of my emotional attachment to basketball - and that kind of emotional attachment is an integral part of the way I view sports.
I don't, really, know that much about basketball. After all, it took me a year to even figure out what a pick and roll is. I will tell you now that I am not good at basketball analysis, and that there are many other bloggers and writers better at it than me. I've only been watching sports for a relatively short time, and my viewpoint is relatively limited. But that viewpoint is what makes me unique in what I write about: as a female, as an intellectually-inclined person, as a relative outsider, as a fan. After all, how many tiny, teenaged white girls do you know that write about basketball in a bi-equal split between contemplative philosophy and girlish squealing?
Please don't answer that.