Sports really do bring people together
This is about how I’m a soccer fan now.
I’ll admit it, if you were to go deep into the trenches of my old Facebook statuses around the year 2010 you’d probably find one that says something unwitty like, “How do people like sportsball?” This was the correct opinion of people of my ilk (or at least what I made myself believe was the correct opinion of people of my ilk. To get even deeper, who did I think my “ilk” was? Cool edgy rebellious teens? Definitely not Supernatural/Sherlock fans who spent too much time on Tumblr (which is actually accurate)), to hate sports with a passion because that’s what quirky nerdy girls are supposed to do.
This was a farce. I was in marching band and pep band for crying out loud! Sure, only one of those things was voluntary for high school band students, but I not only participated in playing at sports events, I even liked doing it. Pep band is the reason why I still have a dream career of being a sports mascot and/or organ player for a baseball team. It is nothing but fun to provide musical entertainment for a bunch of drunk people who are yelling and eating overpriced hot dogs (coincidentally one of my favorite pastimes as well).
In sixth grade, before I knew what being emo was, I was a big basewas ball person because I started playing softball (so I knew what was going on) and I also was a White Sox fan in the suburbs (where everyone is a Cubs fan) and 2005 was also the time that the Sox won the World Series and the Cubs had no fucking chance to win anything ever (until they did). I also had like two friends at the start of middle school and wanted to seem like a normal person with normal interests, as Yu-Gi-Oh! was no longer a normal interest of a middle schooler in 2005. Anyways, I was very obnoxious with being a Sox fan and wrote “Go Sox!” in everyone’s yearbooks, which is embarrassing.
Years went by and I kind of forgot about sports. I went to college and the pep band at Augie pretty much dissolved into nothing after freshman year. Even though I had cable the only game I’d really ever watch was the Superbowl—which I would do alone while eating a whole pizza (I did this again in pre-vaccine 2021 and ended up sitting on my pizza which I forgot was on my chair and it ended up being one of the saddest moments of my life, and my mom is dying).
But then I was done with studying and moved back home with my parents around the same time that all my friends left town, which meant that my parents were really my only friends for a while and my new best friends loved to watch football on Sunday (and Monday and Thursday) so I also started doing those things. Then when I moved out, I convinced my friend to host a Superbowl party at her house because my roommate was doing one in our apartment and I wasn’t invited. And I wasn’t about to have another sad Superbowl. We graduated from that! So it soon became tradition and my friends who hate sports started watching one sport. It was mostly an excuse to eat one’s weight in melted cheese and watch a musical performance but we also were rooting for a winner and a loser (as always, fuck the Patriots).
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After the pandemic “ended” (when we got vaccines and things started opening up again) was really when the sports watching kicked into overdrive for me. My coworker at the time was a huge White Sox fan, got partial season tickets, and kept running out of people to go with so I’d go with her. That summer I went to four games, which was a lot for me because up until that point I’d gone to one game in maybe a twelve-year timespan. It was fun! You get to drink beer and eat two hot dogs and yell about things. Every time I went the Sox lost. I was cursed and therefore barred from attending any games until the next season (where they won a few while I was in attendance).
My friends, who previously weren’t into sports, would now willingly go to a baseball or soccer game as a group because we all realized that these things are fun to go to and there’s always a hot dog to eat. I even got to go to my first Bulls game ever (and they lost so badly to the Warriors). We still all dislike the Cubs from suburban trauma and the fact that the near-constant games really screw up parking in my neighborhood. (It is their fault and not my fault for choosing to live near Wrigley Field, obviously).
But really, the big sports watching is back with my family. As you all know, my mom has a terminal illness that’s made her unable to move much by herself, so we do a lot of television watching. While there’s a lot of stuff out there to watch, a lot of it isn’t good for the soul when you’re sick and anxious and stuck inside. Too much written stuff is dark and too much reality TV is way too nerve-wracking and brain-numbing. Sports is kind of that neutral in-between where there’s more excitement than the 80’s game show channel but less nervous energy from a Netflix original. There’s conflict that’s easily resolved and has theme music that slaps. We watched baseball a lot because it happened pretty much every day. Then October hit and, while my family is an NFL house, football games only happened a few times a week. This was not enough.
I’m not going to say that the World Cup happening in the winter this year is a good thing—it’s not—but it is a well-timed solution to the attention problem my family has, since there’s only so many Hallmark Christmas movies out there. For me personally, I have never cared about soccer like ever. One time my brother and I were in Poland during the World Cup and we would watch games for a camp activity sometimes and I never got the appeal even when it was all around me. This time, though, was a little different. A guy at my new job did an entire PowerPoint presentation about the World Cup and made us all fill out brackets, so I have some skin in the game now. (My bracket is completely ruined, btw.) Poland and Mexico were also slated to play each other in one of the first matches of the tournament, and because my friends and I love rooting for our respective mother countries there was some stake in the game.
Mexico and Poland drew their match and then I just let Fox keep showing me soccer for the rest of the day and it was quite nice to just have some sports playing in the background. I understood why people do this now. And now that Poland (and the U.S. I guess) were starting to look like they had a chance to advance to the next round, my mom also started watching. It was now another thing we could enjoy together as a family and get excited about. Unfortunately Poland lost to France pretty badly (which actually fits with my bracket prediction because I am a Poland traitor) and I still think it’s kind of boring, but I’m still enjoying myself.
Ghost Rats (my improv team) is doing their very last show of the year in the Stacked showcase at the Newport Theater in Chicago. It’s on Thursday, December 8 at 8:00. Tickets are $10 at the door or buy them ahead of time online.