The Sports Gene...Help me understand & why can't I have it

I’m a 50’sh year old well adjusted guy living in the Southeast. The love of SEC Football is HUGE here. I’m a reasonably social guy with friends and all… But I’d like more. So much of it all seems to be centered around the love of football ( and alcohol too I guess… ) which I have never cared a bit about… Or ANY sport for that matter. ( Or alcohol but I’m just saying that in case it matters )

Why didn’t I ever catch the Football bug and why can’t I catch it now? I’ve kinda tried… I have a favorite team, Auburn, and I’ve watched some games. Ever year I start off going to try to pay attention and get into it, but it never like “TAKES”. I’ve got a pretty high IQ ( if that matters ) but right now I couldn’t tell you who won the last few SEC championships. I do know that Alabama has been good the last few years, and that “My Auburn” is a stronger contender than they tended to be years ago. Right? But I don’t know who won what years… or who the coaches are… Wait, Saban ( spelling ) is or was the coach of… Alabama, right? And Tuberville was Auburns…right? Is he still, He’s running for Congress! Politics I get and pay a lot of attention to… but Sports doesn’t “STICK” one bit.

Matter of fact, I don’t understand how the fans can take it all SOOOO serious. It’s just a game… and it really makes no sense to align yourself with some group of guys and honestly feel like your honor is at stake in every ballgame.

So… yes, I realize that on one hand I have what might be complete contempt for all that… But I’d like to have that same feeling and sense of “Belonging” that everyone else does and just hang on to every aspect of whats going on in the whole conference.

Is it too late for me? How did I somehow not get it? Can you make we understand how to have that sense of competitive oneness that everyone seems to have with THEIR team? What do I have to do to make the details of the sport, and the games, especially of my team “STICK” like the details of politics sticks for me. Seriously.

Here is what you do: Pick a team and place a small bet. Or, hell, a large bet. See if that changes your perspective.

Like, I love the N.O. Saints because once, years ago, their surprise win led to my winning a pot at the office. I don’t know the names of their head coach or their quarterbacks but that game in particular showed me that I really could get into it even if I didn’t know what was happening. It’s pretty easy to pick up key names and words. Stand up and yell when everybody else on “your” side does so.

(Confession, I spent years in high school and college band playing at football games, so I do kinda know what’s happening. I just generally don’t care.)

I feel much like you do, but even more so. It’s not just “some group of guys”, it’s a group of mercenaries who were hired for a project. I could understand rooting for the home team if they were in fact local guys. But the only thing that ties them to the home town is the fact that this is where they play half their games. Why should I care if they win or lose? (Same thing goes for college sports; they don’t really represent their school the way high school athletes do.)

Hilarity - I did try your exact idea for a while. It did indeed help me to be excited, but only for that one single game. There was no carryover of emotion that got me to care about them or any other team at the next game. I concede that if a team was on a winning streak, that gets me excited and rooting for them even nowadays. Ditto for a team on a losing streak, hoping that they’ll finally win.

I think a lot of catching the sports bug has to do with upbringing. If your dad watched a lot of sports, then watching sports with him became a bonding experience and a part of the path on the road to adulthood. As a result, sports takes on an emotional element, and opens as an avenue to bonding with others. Without the background this may be hard to fabricate through force of will.

I’m older than you, and just as blind to sports. But I realize that as a guy I. Must. Love. Sports. So I fake it.

Follow the team. Read the sports news enough to know whether they’re having a good or bad year, and pick up on a few individual stars enough to be able to say, “let’s see how they use Grabinski in this situation.”

One thing I have picked over time is an appreciation of a brilliant play. I understand how hard it is for a receiver to outrun defenders, catch a pass on his fingertips, and hold onto it even if I have no idea who’s playing or what the score is. I can sincerely slap my hand on the bar and say to my drinking buddies, “Did you see that!” with honest enthusiasm.

The more you pay attention—to a particular player or set of players, on a particular team or set of teams, in a particular league or division, of a particular sport—the more you’ll know about them. And the more you know about them, the more you’ll care about them. And the more you care about them, the more you’ll want to pay attention to them.

Except there’s still no guarantee you’ll enjoy it even then, though the chances are better. And all that time and attention may or may not reward you as well as something else you might spend them on.

But, watching a game without being familiar with the team, the players, or the nuances of the sport itself is kind of like watching one episode from the middle of a long-running TV series that you’ve never seen before. You may (or may not) be entertained, but you’re not going to fully appreciate it without being familiar with the characters and their relationships, the settings, the rhythm of the show, etc. Although, even if you do take the time to get into the series, not all shows are good shows, and not all good shows are ones that you, personally, will particularly enjoy even if you give it your best effort.

Yeah, this. Why on earth else would a poor guy have wasted so many years rooting for the Washington Senators and Redskins?*

*not counting last year’s incredible Nats season!


Welcome to the SDMB, Sdowiat. We have different forums for different purposes. You’ll want to read the descriptions of the forums to gain an understanding of what goes where. The General Questions forum is for questions with a factual answer, which this one is not. Our Game Room forum is much more appropriate for discussions of sports. I’ll move this thread over there.

If you don’t like a sport, don’t follow it. You have a limited amount of time in your life. Don’t waste it on something you don’t like. Nothing at this point, nothing being suggested, will make you REALLY like it. You can learn more about it but actually coming to really enjoy it is super unlikely.

Well, why do we care whether Hamlet avenges his father’s murder or is murdered himself? Why do we care whether Clarice Starling captures Buffalo Bill? Those people aren’t even mercenaries hired for a project - they literally don’t exist and never have. But we do care, because humans like stories.

Spectator sports are just stories. There are heroes and villains and surprise twists. And unlike even Hamlet or Silence of the Lambs, the plot isn’t proscribed. If the Mets play the Cardinals this weekend (if only!), I can’t look up spoilers on Friday night and find out who will win. The heroes might lose (and indeed, the characters I’ve designated the heroes are someone else’s villains anyway). Clarice might get knocked into the pit.

We develop rooting interests because that’s how most people engage with stories; you hope for a particular outcome, even if it doesn’t actually affect your life. Ramsey Bolton never did anything to me; neither did Derek Jeter. But I have very much enjoyed the times I’ve seen both of them lose.

I definitely think this is a big part of it. I grew up in Green Bay, a city where the Packers are a huge part of the place’s identity. My father had season tickets (which I now own), and fall Sundays were either going to the game, or watching it on TV with him.

I played football, but only a tiny bit (I was little and skinny and not cut out for actually playing), but watching football was one of the things that my father and I could do together, and a topic that was “social currency” in grade school and high school, so I think that that’s why it stuck.

@ the OP: Football is a tough sport to catch on because it is unusually complex (in terms of rules, tactics, etc.) compared to the other major American team sports of baseball, basketball and hockey. As hence, it tends to get either fanatics-or-nothing. Either you have diehard fans who have done all their homework to understand the game, or casual observers who can’t figure out what all those guys wearing helmets and pads, and the “3rd and 8,” and yellow first-down marker, all stand for or mean.

I just have to chime in and say this is a terrific answer. I haven’t seen it stated in quite this way before. Eloquently put.

If you really want to try to understand a game, I would suggest joining a fantasy league. There are plenty of free ones out there over the internet, so it won’t cost you anything but time.

I’m more of a baseball fan than a football fan, but I’ve played fantasy football in the past. If you want to do well, it will really get you immersed in the nuts and bolts of the sport. It also gives you a different perspective when watching a game. You might find yourself yelling at the TV when your receiver drops an easy pass, or jumping for joy when your kicker hits a 53-yard field goal.

I think that we can all enjoy sports, but sometimes, the push to enjoy local or regional sports is too much. I note that the OP feels pushed to enjoy SEC football, but really doesn’t. How does he feel about NFL football, or Major League Baseball, or NHL? Or world soccer? Or horse racing, tennis, or golf?

I know what the OP feels, because as a Canadian, I’m supposed to go absolutely bugshit crazy over hockey. If the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing the Montreal Canadiens on Super Bowl Sunday, my patriotic duty apparently, is to watch the hockey game instead of the Super Bowl. If the Boston Red Sox are playing the San Francisco Giants in Game 7 of the World Series, but an Edmonton Oilers means-nothing hockey game in October is on, then guess which game will be given pride-of-place at the local sports bar?

Thing is, I do not care about hockey. I don’t hate it; but being surrounded by millions of others who live, breathe, eat, and sleep hockey; and who watch it every chance they get; and who talk about it nonstop; makes me wonder if I really like sports. Kind of like the OP.

I actually love sports. The Toronto Blue Jays are my favorite baseball team, and the San Francisco 49ers are my favorite NFL team. In CFL, I’m split between the Calgary Stampeders and the Toronto Argonauts. I’ll watch NBA from time to time, though I don’t quite understand it fully. But it’s fun to watch.

OP, could it be that you don’t really care for SEC football (like I don’t really care for NHL hockey), but you like other sports?

If you want to know more about the nuts and bolts of football watching it on tv and joining fantasy leagues are the way to go. Listen to good analysts about what is going on. There is a lot going on even when you don’t know it.

If you want to get into the camaraderie and emotion of fandom go to live games. Especially in big time college games where every game is so important. Seeing it live will give you a completely different perspective.

If you want to truly become an Auburn fan. Hang around with some Alabama fans for awhile and watch their games with them. Your quickly growing hate will fuel your love for the War Eagles/Tigers (pick one and stick with it already).

But seriously, if you didn’t get the itch pretty young you’ll never have it strong. I LOVE college football, tolerate the NFL and am growing more fond of the NBA. Guess which one started as a kid…


Why shouldn’t you root for the home team? I mean, as opposed to any other team in the league? Everything you say is true for every team, so since none of them are inherently affiliated with you personally, rooting for the home team instead of some other team just makes the most practical sense:
[li]Easier to go see games in person.[/li][li]Easier to watch all the games if you want to.[/li][li]More likely to be common ground for small talk.[/li][li]Sports talk radio more likely to talk about your team if you’re into that kind of thing.[/li][li]etc…[/li][/ul]

Some people seem to enjoy rooting for a rival team to be contrarian. I live in south Texas which is big Dallas Cowboys country. None the less there is a small but vocal contingent group of older Pittsburgh Steelers fans in the area. They aren’t from Pittsburgh, but seem to have developed their fandom as a way to antagonize the Cowboys fans, going back to their rivalry back in the 70s.