(Mis)understanding sports


Very few people would mistake me for a basketball fan. Or a baseball guy. Or a hockey fanatic.

I feel like an anthropologist discovering a long lost tribe whenever I find myself in the middle of a sports arena — these people have their own dress, their own customs and rituals.

The man beside me kept standing up and gyrating in jerky motions like he was possessed by some unholy spirit. There was a dinosaur puppet on his left hand.

A very short and very angry man in front of me was wearing a Raptors jersey and shouting with grave fervor at the referees.

A team of experts whisked alcohol and ice-cream bars up and down the stairs like secret agents—kneeling so as not to block the view of the spectacle.

It took me nearly fifteen minutes to realize that LeBron James was playing. And my first thought was, “Isn’t he the guy from Trainwreck?”

There’s a palpable energy—especially during a play-off game—that’s hard not to get swept up in. There’s a story there, a history. The fans play a part in this narrative, this religion. They have legends and superstitions. They have endless, bottomless hope. They believe in the face of all rational evidence.

It can be fun. But it’s also awesome and terrifying to witness. Thousands of people chanting in unison, giant surges of highs and lows: deafening cheers, and raucous boos. And it’s scary being an outsider because you never know exactly where all that energy is going to be directed. Can the crowd sense that I’m not one of them? Can they smell my athletic ignorance like a pack of dogs smells fear?

I never want to find out.

⇠PREVIOUS (ADB is courtside) NEXT⇢

All-Day Breakfast is a daily reflection on creativity and the human condition in the modern age. This is issue #226 of 555.

Join the All-Day Breakfast Club newsletter for sporadic updates and more!