“What do you mean, Carter?” my friend asks from across the table.
It’s a few days before the Super Bowl and we’re with two other friends at the Mexican restaurant where we meet for lunch about once a month. Our meals haven’t arrived yet, and the table is littered with salsa-speckled papers covered with charts, graphs, and lists.
The three had entered into a very intense conversation about their fantasy football season, but I had entered that special place in my head that I retreat to when people around me were discussing topics that had absolutely no bearing on my life to have . There are talking animals with funny hats, and there are endless cakes, and the animals call me “Excellence”.
I blink myself back to consciousness and my friend asks the same question again, this time with a candid grin on his face, suggesting he already knows my opinion of their “fantasy football” league and pro sports in general.
“I don’t care,” I tell him. “It’s pointless and sad and when you die you’ll wish you hadn’t wasted all that time on your fake football teams.”
My friends shake their heads and exchange “Well… bless his heart” looks, as if sad that my life is so much less than it could be if I just shared their obsession. But I’m used to it. These are the same guys who over the years have made fun of the fact that I can name the kingdoms of Westeros from Game of Thrones and all the noble houses – even the smaller houses – and who have read all the books and on it have been waiting for the start of each new season of the show with the same anticipation of an 8-year-old just days away from Christmas morning. They also think it’s odd that I’m still infatuated with The Walking Dead and have several caches of weapons hidden around my house in case the inevitable zombie apocalypse happens.
My friends, along with a few other football guys I know – one who even paid a lot (and I mean a lot) money for an official, sweat-stained, game-worn Peyton Manning jersey, and who admitted to myself during a beery, whiny confession round that he sometimes sleeps in it – actually occasionally have my chosen sources of entertainment – reading fantasy and horror and sci-fi novels and playing D&D-style board games – when “Sort of described as gay” compared to their own male, leisurely endeavors.
I don’t get it, but I have absolutely no problem with your description of my pastimes, and will even refrain from pointing out the obvious irony of how you view what I do, other than suggesting that certain subcultures like, um, I don’t. You know, maybe groups of guys who have never played soccer but really, really wish they could play soccer and obsessively love to talk and talk about soccer players and “fantasize” about those soccer players and pictures of those soccer players pinning it to the walls of their man caves and buying second-hand clothes worn by those soccer players is sorely lacking in confidence these days.
Of course I’m not an athlete. While I admire the talent and dedication of any professional athlete, and the unimaginable amount of time they obviously put into their chosen pursuits, organized sport and the people who play it have just never been a big part of my life. I only know the names of a few collegiate and pro teams from all sports, but I couldn’t name any of the current players even for money. I have no idea what a two minute warning is, don’t know how “the draft” works, and the only professional athlete I would recognize at first glance if he walked into the room would be Muhammad Ali, and then I’d be scared and wet pants because I know he’s dead.
The only personal “sporting moment” I can remember was when the Atlanta Braves won the World Series in 1995, and I was excited about that because they were my dad’s team, my grandmother’s team and my brother’s at my house was when it happened and we jumped up and hugged and then attempted a high five. It was ugly and spastic because we’re both uncoordinated as hell and our hands are never connected. Since then we have never talked about it again; the memory is still too painful.
Another thing I don’t understand about sports fanatics is how they insist on replaying a game the next day as if they could have done a much better job personally. I firmly believe that you have no right to a political opinion if you don’t vote. The same rule should apply to sports. Before you’re allowed to commentate on a bad game by a highly trained soccer player, you first have to lay down in the middle of an open field in a 50,000-seat stadium and have 11,330-pound sweaty guys in helmets sitting on their heads, grunting and squirming (calm down, fantasy football leagues) and do all the things that obscenely paid professional athletes do every Sunday. Then, and only then, have you earned the right to go to work on Monday morning and complain about how crappy your team is.
Here’s another sports fan rule I just came up with: You can no longer complain about the perceived flaws of a highly trained athlete as the perfect specimen of a human being while your lips are wrapped around your fourth Hardee Sausage cookie Your stomach enters a room three seconds before the rest of your body or you run out of breath walking across the room to flick your cigarette butt out the door.
“Seriously,” my friend says, waving a hand over all the papers stacked on the table, “I’d like to know what you really think of all this.”
“I think you should worry more about zombies,” I tell him.
“You’re so gay,” he says.
Maybe so, but it won’t make a damn difference to the zombie who feels the cold steel of one of my spears penetrating his brain.