Monday, September 14, 2015

On Being a Sports Fan



I am in New York for a quick visit and in that visit there is again a lot of New Jersey. I mention it now as it segways into what I want to quickly discuss today which is sports. Yesterday I went to the Jets opener game against the Cleveland Browns and because of sheer association with one of the luckiest people in the world we got probably some of the best seats in the stadium. Twenty rows back, access to the pitch right behind the Jet’s benches and unlimited food and drink in what was a mix between a cruise buffet and low key wedding lounge. Needless to say it was rarified and fantastic but being there and then watching another football game later that night at the 40/40 Club made me think much about what is means to be a sports fan.

I have two brothers, older, and they are both sports fans although one is more of a fanatic then the other. You will rarely see my eldest brother without head to toe colors of whatever season’s sport is on view. They have always been sports fans and this has been transferred to my nephews who are also fanatical about their love of sports. I have never been so fanatical but growing up with my brothers and the culture of sports that is thick in Jersey suburbs have been background noise to my life and a comforting sound at that.

When one is younger, playing sports is usually standard for exercise, potential measuring and socializing. I played many and was nearly bad at all of them but nonetheless I am glad I was made to do them. As an adult I no longer play sports recreationally but I do watch it and always enjoy seeing something live. The degree of my spectatorship almost always revolves around who I am spending time with them whether they are friends or lovers. If they are really into a team or a sport it is a common activity to watch a few games versus maybe reading a book or watching a movie. Watching sports with someone who is a knowledgeable fan is the best because it is a quick guide into the history recent and distant of the team, player and sport.

Knowing the stories and the history of a team or player is key to having connection and true enthusiasm. These can be quickly built though and many times I judge or relate to a player of team based on its members demeanor, attitude, their something that makes them seem familiar, friendly, or someone I would want to know. The role of the player being a concentration of a story, their own and that of a team has a watered downed heroic quality but it echoes things of the past like warriors and gladiators. It is something that we need as humans in our desire to excel, dominate and to battle.

Sports are this very thing. Mini battles of strength, endurance, athleticism. They are measures that represent personal feats but they are also monetized into  larger representations. Sports players are often interviewed and in these they reply with glazed over trained expressions and phrases for the most part. They have to say certain things and they are forced to many times. It is in a similar way in how the voice is possessed by an external entity that their bodies also are. The player is a piece in a larger structure and no matter how individual they are in their talents they are formatted to fulfill a role and a personification. Their bodies are owned and with an injury or a failure of this it ceases to have capital and influence. It is a bizarre yet unsurprising idea to see an athlete and think about slavery, the ownership of the body, the evolution of genes to create the most ultimate specimen and structure of the body to excel and to break new markers of the body and sport.

Watching sports means to watch this body. It is to see a hyper evolved actualization of genes, history, training and sheer talent. The combination of this can make moments within sports things of pure perfection. There is a level of grace, captivation and awe that strikes within sports that no piece of art could even try to strike. And for those that think that sports don’t possess this or if they ignore it because they oppose it for one reason or another I think that, that is a reflection of closed mindedness of aesthetis capacities that should squarely be called ignorant.

It’s not all fun and cheer though. Sports is a commercial spectacle. The way humans, bodies, and identities are treated within is something to question, criticize and reflect on. But to watch and bare witness to a perfect moment and to be apart of a collective ecstaticism within which such a moment can conjure, it is reductively human and we need to tap into that at least once in a while.