Confessions of a Sports-Hater
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Consider me your typical American male. I have an occasional beer, let out a hardy guffaw when I've heard a ribald punch line, and I never fail to leer at my wife's legs.

Yet, despite these icons of virility, my Achilles heel reveals itself when it comes to the topic of sports. Ask me if the Knicks are a basketball or football team, and I'll draw a blank. Mention Piazza, and I'd order mine with sun-dried tomatoes. Introduce sports into any conversation, and my brain floats in a sea of delta waves.

I ask you: What is so exciting about a herd of perspiring individuals who must kick, strike, throw, or pass a ball in order to achieve a higher score than another bunch of perspiring individuals?

In grammar school my sport of choice -- if you can call it that -- was tops. I rarely failed to amaze my friends as my gyrating toy left the string's end and invariably landed on target. Yet, this very same group would shake their heads and snicker when I tried to throw a football. Where they could send the ball skyward, spinning as clean as a torpedo through water, mine would waddle in the air and descend like one of NASA's early fiascoes.

  
 
My luck with baseball was just as dreadful. I recall during my twelfth summer, some friends and I wandering over to a local park to get a game going. I wasn't really excited about this, but I figured that if I didn't participate, I would be color coordinating Barbie's fall wardrobe with my little sister. My buddies, sensing my antipathy towards the ball and glove, assigned me the appropriate position - outfield.

I examined every leather thread that held my mitt together, every blade of grass at my feet. I was bored beyond reason. I stood a good 100 feet from the action and was simply not needed. That is, until a lucky pitch entered the airspace of my friend's bat. Only a moment before, I had taken off my mitt to explore the wonders of my opposable thumb, when I heard my teammates yell, "Outfield!" Headed right for me was a hard ball, intent, I believe, on drastically altering my nose. Instinctively, my hands went up in a cupped fashion and caught the ball, temporarily. The ball hit the ground, and I followed right behind. My hands were in such agony that I was out the rest of the game, and by the next day was beating my sister royally at hopscotch.

As I grew older, I concluded that I was denying my natural flow of testosterone, those juices that enable the male animal to spill half his beer because he disagrees with some referee's outlandish call.

I once cringed when a friend invited me over to his house for Super Bowl Sunday. "Come on, we'll have a great time. A big bowl of chips and numerous bottles of beer will put hair in your ears," he said.

"Do you really think I'll enjoy the game?" I hyperventilated. "What if I spill my beer?"

"The couch is vinyl."

So, when that mother of all Sundays rolled around, I was convinced that I would soon be rattling off the NFL's three conferences or Dan Marino's cup size.

It didn't happen. I had a couple mugs of ice-cold beer, massive handfuls of chips, and heavy eyelids, which put me in slumberland before the end of the first quarter. My friend and I are still close, but we both realize that I am a hopeless case. This theory was proved inconclusively not long ago when I phoned the same friend to say hi. "You're calling me NOW?!" he said. "My, God! It's the final inning of the World Series! Game seven!" So what was the big deal?

Now when I attend a ball game -- which occurs as frequently as the U.S. Census -- I acquire the habit of consuming peanuts, hot dogs, and any other snacks that the vendors can throw at me. This culinary game of catch allows me to disregard what's taking placing on the field, as well as the fan next to me who has the word "kill" painted on his bare chest. The high point of the afternoon is joining the masses in instigating the wave, which I consider the true American pastime.

Nowadays, my favorite diversions include reading fine literature, consuming only the best pinot noirs, and savoring films that contain English subtitles. Still, at times, I experience that primal need to be one of the boys and view a competitive altercation.

If such a hankering wells within me, I grab a beer and turn to ESPN.

And when I wake up, I'm grateful for my vinyl couch.

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