There are many things I learned about New England after I moved here. Some are wonderful. Some are… less so.
I love the historicity of the region. I love the quaint old towns and the graveyards with pre-Revolutionary headstones in them, straight out of an Edward Gorey illustration. I love the importance placed on preserving the integrity of the communities, on tempering the pressures of modernity. I’m not above admitting outright that I like living in a politically bluish part of the country. And Autumn is a particularly lovely time hereabouts.
What don’t I love? Hmmm. Well, one thing’s for sure — if I had to choose between which city actually has much ruder residents between New York and Boston, I’m sad to say the former has the reputation, but the latter is the one that actually deserves it.
On a more neutral note, I don’t think I have ever lived in a more sports-mad part of the country. Ever. People in the parts of New England where I’ve lived love their sports. Like, really, really love them. It’s not just that generations were devoted to the Red Sox despite hoary old curses and a World Series drought of legend. People in this area love all the major sports teams. The cars that pass me on I-495 with stickers for the Sox, the Pats, the Bruins and the Celtics are legion. This does not seem to diminish with distance from Boston, at least in the more northern reaches. I’m sure there are other areas of the country that are just as obsessed with professional athletics in one season or another, but it seems that this area is the one that has the most persistent, continuous devotion from season to season.
(Those of you who live[d] elsewhere and beg to differ, please feel free to do so.)
I do not understand this in the slightest. I have mentioned before that I do not grok what it is to be heterosexual. I don’t have a clue what makes a woman’s breasts erotic. In a similar vein, I simply do not get what it is to care about sports. That is not to say that I think sports fandom is either an exclusively male or heterosexual thing. Not at all. I knew a (straight) woman in New York with a Yankee insignia tattooed on her leg who would evince a near-nauseated reaction to discussing the Mets. When I think of the most rabid Patriots fan I know, a lesbian friend of mine springs immediately to mind. I don’t mean to link male heterosexuality and sports fandom. I just have an equal degree of perplexity when trying to grasp either.
I cannot fathom caring about the outcome of a game or even a championship. Frankly, I can’t really fathom caring that much about the outcome of anyone else’s endeavors in which I have had no part, regardless of social realm. (Since I think we all have a part in the outcome, regardless of our engagement or apathy, elections do not count.) The nearest I can think of on a personal note is how much certain Oscar winners stick in my craw. But even if I think it’s a travesty that Judi Dench was beaten by Helen Hunt (then receiving her consolation Oscar one year later for a glorified cameo), it’s not something that would incline me to be depressed for days, much less light cars on fire.
So, in all seriousness, can someone explain why people care about sports? Not merely find them diverting entertainments, but actually care about them? If you have a genuine emotional connection to whether or not your favorite team wins, can you give me a sense of where it comes from, what sustains it? (I sincerely hope I am not coming across as snide or condescending here. I have no intention of being either. I truly want to understand part of the human experience that is completely foreign to me.) What makes this such a part of so many people’s lives?