Growing up, I was never particularly encouraged to be athletic. My parents were usually preoccupied with trying to hold together a separated family (fair enough) and somehow, sports just never fit into the family dynamic. Honestly, I think it would have been way too complicated for my parents to coordinate–every-other-weekends here, Wednesday afternoons there, packing and unpacking overnight bags, etc.
Yet somehow, I found them. Sports, that is. Between homework and mastering the monkey bars, I found a love for athletics. People who meet me may laugh, because I’m 5 Foot Nothing with the least athletic build known to Man, but I love sports. The funny thing about sports is that it’s normally the “team” aspect of things that ropes people in. The camaraderie and the fellowship that comes with rooting for a sports team is more than half the fun.
As a kid from a fairly dysfunctional home, I learned to like the things my parents liked in order to spend time with them. This likely explains a lot of my odd tastes in books (poetry and fantasy) and TV shows (The West Wing, old British sit coms), and it certainly explains how I got into sports. My father was a closet hockey fan–“closet” in the sense that he loved it but barely had time to watch it, so I had no idea he was into that sort of thing. As we got older, he had a bit more time to watch games, and I started to get into it too. Since the rest of my family was pretty disinterested, I could finally have some quality time with my father. That’s how I became a fan of the Leafs–a team that never wins, but we love them nonetheless (and will still pay through the nose for tickets). I’ll never forget when he took me to my first Leafs game. We had Gold seats. They lost.
I guess I can’t say we were never encouraged to get into sports. When we were younger, my father enrolled us in baseball. I knew nothing about baseball, but my father became the assistant coach and gave my sister and I a crash course on all we needed to know. I wanted to be a bat-catcher so bad, except I was terrified of being hit with the ball. So I was a short-stop. Of course. Our team was in a league with two other teams and we lost every single game the whole season– except for the final two games. In our tournament we beat the second place team, and advanced to the finals, where my little sister got us the winning run. The ultimate underdogs won the whole kit and caboodle.
In high school I played football for two years and started watching the NFL at home. Unfortunately, no one in my family got on that bandwagon, but I now have a lot of friends who like awful teams, so I can at least talk about football with them. There’s a certain comfort in sitting down to watch a football game. I can’t really explain what it is, but seeing the amazing Greenbay Packers run in a touchdown just makes my heart sing. Maybe it’s knowing that thousands of people are cheering along with you. Or maybe it’s being a part of something bigger. Team loyalty is a strange thing to me sometimes–most of us will never meet or know the players on our favourite teams, but we accept them as one of our own. We love when they succeed and we feel for them when they fail.
Tomorrow the Jays play their first game at home, and I’ll be working across the street, cheering them on. I’ll be making lattes for excited fans, and showing off my new Arencibia (we miss you!) jersey, soaking in that unnameable feeling. I know a lot of people don’t care about sports or scores or things like that, but for those that do, I’m with you. Sports teaches us a lot of things: working together, healthy competition, endurance, focus, and what it means to do your best. Even though the drinks are expensive and the stadium is always smelly, it’s worth going. It’s worth it for that moment when they get that crucial run, and you think to yourself: I love this team.
Bring it on, Yankees.