My attitude towards sports is something I’ve been meaning to confess. I needed the right confessor, and now I’ve found her — my housemate, Charlotte.
So here’s the thing: I don’t get sports.
I don’t understand why people care so much about it.
I realize this is an odd complaint, but now that we’ve got the Olympics coming to town I need to say something.
I do understand playing sport (exercise + fun + friends.) I don’t understand watching it or reading about it. Or rather, I understand only a teeny bit. So the sounds of a tennis rally, the whack and pop of the ball hitting a racket will always make me think of my grandfather. Summertimes in Ireland, sitting in the TV room on that grey-black 1970’s sofa furniture where the cushions rested on very thick bands of rubber that creaked loudly if we did not sit stoney still, Papa watched Wimbledon and from time to time, passed us the brown bag of wine gums if we were good.
And yes, under the right circumstances, I can get excited about the World Cup: in 1994 when I was in Italy by myself I did of course head to the nearest Irish pub (and isn’t there always one) just in time to support Ireland vs Mexico.
But that’s about the extent of my appreciation for the watching sports thing.
Except — wait, ice skating — I can watch that any time and get transfixed. In fact I had a weird thing going on with me and ice skating. When I used to be an insomniac I’d listen to music to fall asleep and no matter the tempo or style (from Vivaldi to The Eagles), I’d imagine I was skating to it — pulling off moves that made the audience gasp. I could play that video in my head for hours. And many sleepless nights, did.
Ok – but that’s really it.
I don’t otherwise understand the enormity of the sporting industry. I don’t get how so very many people devote large chunks of their entire lives to being fans and doing fan-like things. I don’t understand the TV coverage, the emotional urgency of it all. I really want to. But I do not.
I moved to London in 1996. I came because my brother had been transferred by his bank for a stint overseas. When I got here I did all the right things – I read Nick Hornby, went to see Colin Firth in Fever Pitch and did in fact go watch Arsenal play a few times. My brother shared his beautiful South Ken pad with me and while I was happy to live with him, I was not happy about the football (American). My brother invested in SURROUND SOUND and there was absolutely nowhere in that flat to which I could retire peacefully without either American football or Star Trek booming out from the large flat screen. Which, when we were home, was ALL of the time. And while I hate to deny my brother some light R&R, the sound of sports commentators small-talking and seriously debating followed by speeded up mounting alarm punctuated by shrieks of mild hysteria, well, it’s now my least favourite household noise.
So enter Charlotte. My housemate. She loves me just enough to tolerate this heresy of which I write.
Sport is Charlotte’s life. Not that there isn’t a whole lot more to her – but I’ve really never been friends with someone so sports-infused 24/7. She rides her bike to work everyday, does extreme races on the weekends, heads down the park to play rugby after work — while a tad excessive, all this I can get. She also works for the International Tennis Federation, is constantly rescuing the sports section from the pile of newspaper ready for the cat litter and frequently makes reference to people and places and events that mean nothing to me — until I realize from her arched brow and gentle head nod, that yes she is once again attempting to talk to me about the sort of sporting hero that she finds it unfathomable that I HAVE NOT HEARD OF.
Several times, Charlotte got up at a time of morning that I call night in an attempt to win the Olympic ticket lottery.
She gets the whole thing I do not get.
And so tomorrow I hand over my blog to Charlotte who shall attempt to explain to me why sport is so great.