I grew up in Texas but always hated sports. When I wanted to talk to boys, they were watching sports. When I wanted to talk to my dad, he was watching sports. When my debate team needed money for a trip, the money went to sports instead. (I was a bit of a nerd, but it was still unfair!) Like most women, I’ve pretended to like sports for a boyfriend or 10, sat by as his team “got the job done” or not, taking solace in chips and dip. But I secretly wanted to get to a point where I could insist we watch something else or I could slip into the other room to read (still a nerd). I know men are onto this lady behavior. They know we don’t want to be there. They know we live for halftime and dread overtime. They know we want to spend our time doing anything else, like going outside. You know what I’m talking about. But…what if you could change that? What if you could get your sports-loathing girl to love sports? Well, it’s possible. It happened to me.
What changed sports for me was the story of Bill Buckner. You know the one: Buckner let Mookie Wilson’s ball roll between his legs, which ultimately led to the Red Sox losing game six of the 1986 World Series and simultaneously ruined Buckner’s life. It might seem crazy I made it to adulthood without hearing the story, but I did. I heard it in a documentary, The Curse of the Bambino, in 2003, and it changed everything. I cared about Bill Buckner. I cared that he wore his history like chains and that his family did too. I cared about the Red Sox. I wanted them to win the World Series the next year just to take the pressure off Bill Buckner. And that’s when I realized I didn’t care about the “sports” of sports but I did care about the players. There was a riveting human-drama-filled Lifetime movie on every major sports team. And I love me some Lifetime movies.
My anti-sports approach to sports drives guys crazy. I’ll say things like “I want this guy to score because his mom just got out of the hospital.” But it gets my butt in a stadium seat or on a couch, not questioning what it would be like to be at brunch. And you can get your girl to feel the same. Throw some human-interest sports stories at her. Girls like to feel things. Dare her not to care. And start with a gateway sport: college basketball.
There’s nothing better than the NCAA tournament for attracting fresh blood. How can your girl not care about these kids? All eyes on them. Hearts on the court. Most will never play professionally and this is it. So much pressure. So much emotion. Remember the year that star from Gonzaga rolled around on the floor crying when his team lost to UCLA? I mean, they’re kids. They’re missing shots that will haunt them for the rest of their lives (remember when Chris Webber called a time-out he didn’t have?) or making shots they’ll dine out on for the rest of their lives (ask Bryce Drew from Valparaiso, who made “the Shot” in 1998). And you know what they call teams that come from behind in the tournament? Cinderella stories. March Madness is the gateway for any non-sports-loving lady with a heart. Just show her a “One Shining Moment” montage. Last season one of the most talked-about stories was Kevin Ware and his grotesque broken leg that shot through his skin, too horrifying to show on TV. But the bigger story was the guy who went to his aid, Luke Hancock. While some of his teammates were throwing up, Luke comforted Kevin, even though Luke himself needed comforting. His dad was sick. Dying. But he put his problems aside to help his teammate. Without the star Kevin Ware, Luke, a pretty uncelebrated player, went on to lead his team to the championship title. He was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. And his dad was watching. It’s a sad but beautiful story. What a moment. What a guy. That’s a jersey I can get behind.
Sports are metaphors for life. Triumph and tragedy. There’s always a winner (Yankees often) and always a loser (Mets often). Heroes and villains. Fathers and sons (the Mannings). Brothers (also the Mannings). Legacies and underdogs. (I still get choked up when I talk about my hometown team, Texas A&M–Corpus Christi, making it to the tournament for the first time.) It showcases man’s greatest moments (Olympic “miracle” hockey team) and his worst (Black Sox). Superstars and utility players alike go out there and show you not just what they are but who they are. It’s not a coincidence the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl after Katrina. It’s just throwing and tackling, but it really meant something that Sunday. Guys were staring at their feet in living rooms all across America. Just like when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series after the bombing. That story alone can get a girl who hates sports to make you a buffalo-wing cake with BOSTON STRONG written in blue cheese dressing. So that’s your angle: the soft underbelly of sports. People may say I’m watching for the wrong reasons, but I’m watching. And next year, while you and your newly sports-loving girl are deep into your brackets (you’re welcome), I’ll be at the Final Four (my guy can thank me for the tickets). I don’t know which teams will be playing, but it doesn’t matter, because any team will have a story worth rooting for.