25/05/11
by

The 7th Inning Stretch – The Fanatic In Me

Earlier this year I blogged on the reasons why sport is still important and why it deserves respect that is not always extended to it. I told the fat lazy theatre geeks to get off their arse and appreciate the sport that surrounds them like the rest of us patriotic winners. Somehow I doubt they did this. But we probably don’t want them wrecking this pastime for us anyway. The reason I remind the reader of this is because lately I have been considering the importance of sport in my own life.

Sport of course has universal importance and attraction, but one of the special things about it is also the personal relationship we have it. This relationship differs from one fan to another and can be highly individualised and have myriad personal intricacies that only that specific person can understand. For me, I do not believe that I am obsessive about sport, but I might be close.

I read the ESPN football pages every day, I check the MLB and NBA scores constantly throughout the day and could tell you the win-loss record of the teams in the AL East, the approximate batting averages and pitchers ERAs for the Boston Red Sox, I also scrutinise cricket scorecards on cricinfo.com, until recently had my fantasy football team to manage and finally will check the potential All Blacks injury count after a weekend of Super 15 rugby. But I’m sure most people do that.

The reason my head is in this place is that lately I have been reading Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby which is essentially the quintessential book about sport fandom. Highly recommended as a much better source of sports writing than this blog. It made me think: what would I give up for sport? If I were ever lucky enough to get married, well the wedding could never on the day of the Champions League Final; if I ever manage to have children, then I would have to make sure the baby wasn’t conceived nine months before a Rugby World Cup Final… or any All Blacks game for that matter.

Perhaps with these two sporting events some would sympathise and understand that these are occasions not to be missed. But this morning I also woke up at 6am to watch a friendly testimonial football match for Gary Neville that had absolutely no bearing on anything whatsoever, other than a farewell to a player whose best days have passed and who I never saw play that much during his career. Surely that game would have been easy to give up? Surely I watched it simply because I had nothing else to do at 6 on a Wednesday morning. But I am not too sure. I wouldn’t have missed my own child’s birth for it, but it was still important to me.

That is how you measure a true sports fan. One that is ready to wake up at any time of the night in order to watch the meaningless games, so that the meaningful ones are even more so because you deserve to watch them. You have done the hard yards and so you are worthy. And this week I am worthy of the Champions League Final. Manchester United vs Barcelona at Wembley Stadium. Another page of history will be made, and I will be there to see it written. Majesty will be on show. The two best clubs on the planet will come head to head. And they will embody the beauty of sport. Just you wait and see.

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