I have a long and consistently undistinguished career as a sports fan. It goes like this:
— My brother was a swimmer in high school and I would go to get snacks during his events. (Fortunately he swam the mile, so there was time.)
— I went to my first professional football game in college and I mainly remember that it was cold. Patriots and Dolphins went into overtime, but I was primarily concerned about the fact that I couldn’t feel my legs below my knees.
— When I first met my husband, he was coaching high school basketball. I spent every Friday night in the gym, but I was just hoping for the win so Matt wouldn’t be crabby at dinner.
— When I was first married (to a huge sports fan) I tried to be polite. I even set one Valentine’s Day dinner up on the coffee table because a game was on. But the honest truth is, I don’t care who wins. And given the choice, I’d rather not even be in the room.
So it has come as an enormous shock to me that I’m all wrapped up about the Middlebury basketball team.
I started out appreciating the team because they were nice to John. Anybody over six feet tall who leans all the way down to talk to a two year old is a winner in my book. But I’d drop John and Matt off at games and maybe watch the first half, then go to the grocery store for the second half. Over time, I somehow found myself watching more and more of the game, and once actually watched a blurry, low-res streaming version online when I couldn’t be there.
Last year, the team won two amazing games at Williams College and I could barely sit still. My heart was racing and I was completely overwrought. I think I might have fallen for the game for the first time that day. I can’t think of another weekend like it. Both wins at times seemed unlikely, if not impossible, but they happened, and there was such a feeling of joy to go along with them — which I assume is what all the fuss is about with sports in general. There’s not a lot of pulse-racing drama in my regular life, and that’s ok. I prefer things on a more even keel. But man, does it make for a fun afternoon once in a while.
These days, I check the schedule and look forward to the games. I travel, happily, to away games with John, even when Matt can’t go. I’m elated when they win. I dread the idea of a loss. I sometimes catch myself using the first person plural when I talk about the team: “We got off to a great start in the second half.” (This is a habit that I have traditionally mocked in other people.) John has to wait for half time to go to the concession stand, because I’m not leaving the gym while the game is on.
Middlebury’s basketball team is fun to watch and they’re nice as can be. (And for the moment, they’re ranked #1!) I still don’t consider myself a sports fan, or even a basketball fan. But believe it or not (and even I can’t believe I’m saying this), I’m a serious fan of this team. Let’s go, Midd.