The biggest mistake I continually make, over and over, is logging onto Facebook during a huge sporting event. This year, I’ll probably slip up again with the 2018 Super Bowl.
It isn’t memes about Tom Brady’s bizarre-looking — but also somehow handsome — face or general trash talk from either side of the contest that rile me up. I don’t really care either way — I like to watch the game no matter who’s playing.
I grew up kind of weird. In high school, I was an annoyingly enthusiastic art and theater connoisseur, and let everyone know it. My father and brother followed sports, and lots of people in central Pennsylvania go hard for both the Steelers and the Eagles, but I had little interest in sports.
Except that one time I joined the golf team as a joke. I did get a varsity letter for that season, though — for the record.
When I came to college, I drew the same crowd — semi-bookish annoying intellectual types. English majors, mostly — people whose Sundays weren’t built around eating hot bowls of chili on the couch and an endless stream of NFL games on the living room television.
And that’s fine, it isn’t a requirement to grow up in America with a love of sports. I didn’t even start following sports closely until I got interested in writing about sports. A lot of the reasons I didn’t like sports also stemmed from personal insecurities growing up — I was chubby and unathletic and didn’t like playing the way other kids did.
Still, if I have to see one more post on my Facebook feed from an old theater pal or kid I sat next to in my thousand-level literature elective that decides to pull out their virtual wet blanket and smother the Super Bowl with it, I will implode.
Variations of “lol did he get a homerun?” and “sorry I don’t follow the sportsball, I’m too busy drinking Kombucha and listening to this Smiths record,” litter my social media on this sacred Sunday. Maybe some of their followers find it cheeky and relatable, but I don’t.
I used to be one of these people — I probably posted these in 15-year-old angst at some point, honestly. I liked the idea of being far from the mainstream and the exclusivity that came with not liking something everyone else did. Too cool, too intellectual, too sensible.
But sports already is all of these things.
Every game is laden with high levels of strategy — well-thought-out maps and plans for how each team will accomplish its task of winning. Strategy in competition dates back to ancient times and has deep philosophical roots.
Sun Tzu — a Chinese general who lived from 544 to 496 B.C. — is one of the most widely studied strategists in academia. His philosophies, which center on the concept of comparing one competitor to another, are still widely applied today.
The tactician developed a system for consistently improving one’s relative situation when compared to others. If one consistently improves their situation on a regular basis, winning more often becomes inevitable.
Sounds a lot like some of our favorite games, doesn’t it? And if this isn’t enough for you, the statistics of sports themselves runs even deeper.
“Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” written by award-winning nonfiction author Michael Lewis, tells the story of an early 2000s Oakland Athletics team and its general manager Billy Beane.
The central theme of the narrative is that the knowledge of baseball insiders — coaches, scouts, managers and trainers — is often flawed and subjective. In order for a team to consistently succeed, time and energy should be devoted to empirical analysis of statistics and sabermetrics.
Are sports still too dumb and useless for you?
But really, why does everything have to have some degree of high-level intellectual rigor to be valid, anyway? Can we not collectively enjoy something entertaining without explanation? Can we not indulge ourselves in a plate of chips and guac and just enjoy something for once?
If you’re a person who has to take out their insecurities about not understanding a widely popular sporting event on Facebook, don’t fret — you can still be saved.
Watch the game. Go to a party, go to a bar, enjoy the presence of others around you. Enjoy the free food, the camaraderie. Don’t want to watch the game? Then don’t, just watch the Doritos commercials. Whatever you do — don’t be that person who is too cool or smart for sports.