Hello, my name is Paul. And I’m a man who doesn’t like sports.
No, really, I’m still a man. I promise. Being one of the handful of members of MWDLSA (yeah, Men Who Don’t Like Sports Anonymous) doesn’t make me less of a man, although it feels like it sometimes. In fact, given the number of women who like sports, it might even be inferred that those of us men who don’t like sports are even less manly than women.
But if I weren’t a man, would I feel the need to make such pronouncements as the fact that I worked for several years in construction and could damn near build a house from the ground up given the right tools and a few extra hands? That’s manly, right?
But if you’re a man who doesn’t like sports, that’s often not enough proof. (I can also do a handful of things under the hood as well but nothing you couldn’t just figure out by the manual, so I won’t go into that too much. And it might actually hurt my case to say that for a man in his early 40s, I still play a pretty mean game of racquetball.)
I bring this up because we’ve hit that weird, often awkward time of year for men who don’t like sports: football season. Because let’s be honest, the “A” in MWDLSA may stand for “Anonymous,” but we’re not that hard to pick out in a group of guys.
Just ask us if we caught the most recent game.
“No, I missed that one,” the men who don’t like sports will say, as if we were perhaps watching another sporting event at the time. Or maybe even three at the same time since we’re so manly (do they have dual picture-in-picture yet?). We just didn’t happen to catch the one you were watching.
As you continue to talk about the game, some men who don’t like sports may even offer a few words of agreement or expressions of disbelief at the amazing play or completely unfair call you just described rather than have that moment when we are forced to say, “Yeah, I don’t really watch football.”
But it won’t take long to figure us out. We won’t have much to say when you bring up players who we should probably recognize who were injured or traded to that other team, and please God, don’t ask us any questions (although the quicker of the men who don’t like sports can bounce questions right back at you. “Well, who do you like for the championship?”).
Additionally, we won’t offer any details on exactly what we were doing that caused us to “miss that one,” which was probably watching “The Walking Dead” with our wives (providing they don’t care much about watching sports either).
Having said all this, you should understand that there are two groups of men who don’t like sports. Unlike those who will object to the barbarism of many sports or lack of cultural value, I both respect and understand the merit of such a form of entertainment.
Much as I’d rather shove bamboo shoots under my fingernails than watch golf on television, I would completely agree with a friend of mine’s assertion that of the games involving a ball and some sort of club or racquet, golf is the most difficult given the size of the striking surface and distance from the ball to the hand. And to place that ball in a hole hundreds of yards away on the first shot? Impressive.
Or what about a quarterback throwing a football fifty yards and dropping it right into the hands of another player while 200-300 lb. men are essentially attacking them both? That’s some choreography right there. (And you know some of those wide receivers can jump so high because they actually take ballet training, right? Not even I’ve taken ballet. Okay, maybe a little.)
I recognize these are not simple things these athletes manage to pull off. It’s just that I don’t really care that much. Perhaps it’s because I never played much more in the way of team sports than some soccer at the YMCA, but I just don’t have that bond to a team. I don’t know any of these guys. Why should I care if they win or lose just because we’re both from the same state (or more realistically, they have been flown in to represent our state)?
But again, I respect what they do. I also respect doctors, but you’re not going to see me watching some big doctor polo match either (that’s what doctors do, right?), and I’ve even had a couple of these guys save my life. More than I can say for pro athletes.
Hmm. Taking that into account, I probably would go watch the doctor polo match if I was invited. But that’s about where we draw the line on professional courtesy.
Otherwise, on the rare occasions that I’m granted as the father of a five-year-old and three-year-old the opportunity to actually sit down for two to three hours … okay, I can’t even write that with a straight face. So let’s say on those rare occasions when I get maybe two hours to watch something on the television that doesn’t involve talking animals, I prefer to watch something that tells a story.
And that doesn’t have anything to do with not playing sports growing up. I think that is more to do with the fact that I’m a fiction writer. I study the craft of storytelling. Just ask my stepdaughter sometime about Joseph Campbell, the Hero’s Journey, and having to watch movies with me which I know utilize Campbell’s philosophy; you’ll be treated to an amazing eye roll.
I don’t think I’m alone on this, though. Football producers figured this out a long time ago, and in an effort to attract the men who don’t like sports, they started telling the stories of the athletes (this is the part when the men who do like sports get another beer or some more nachos). That’s great and all, but I’m still more interested in seeing how Rick and the gang are going to survive the zombie apocalypse.
So on behalf of all members of Men Who Don’t Like Sports Anonymous, I only ask for consideration. When you realize you are talking to one of us, it doesn’t have to be an awkward moment. You don’t have to bring up your uncle or cousin who also has a problem with not liking sports. Or that you’re trying to not to watch sports as much yourself.
If you’re like those of my friends who have figured this out about me, you’ll just let me step back slowly as soon as another man with whom you can talk about the game joins the conversation.
Because this is when I get another beer and some more nachos.