How to Like Sports (for people who don’t like sports)

Tonight I will continue the ritual of meeting with a handful of other Swampfencers to watch the next game of the NBA Finals. If you would have asked me two weeks ago what I would be doing tonight, I’d put the odds at 200:1 that I probably wouldn’t have said “Watching the NBA Finals.” I’ve somehow become hypnotized by this series. This is coming from someone who’s total basketball viewing time this season probably accumulates to a quarter of exclusively Ricky Rubio highlights (and who’s lifetime viewership would probably be two whole games pre-2012).

I wanted to take this time to share some things that I think have been assisting (HEY, a sports word!) my interest in this season. If you’re someone in the demographic of “reading swampfence but not watching sports” (I know there’s at least 1 of you), follow along as we take a magical journey into enjoying the world of sports.

Watch sports with people who like sports

This might be obvious, but your social environment plays a big role in your enjoyment. For the last year I’ve lived without a TV—naturally, sports were not part of our typical conversation. By placing yourself with people who know more than you about what you’re watching, you’ll pick up on things you were unaware of. Everyone you watch with brings a unique perspective (games watched, favorite players, favorite teams, etc) that shines a different light on parts of the game.

Actively watch

Sometimes this is hard when you’re watching with other people or you’re in a noisy environment, but giving the game your full attention will help you pick up on more. Example:

10 whole players on the court… just wait until you start watching football.

If you’re not attuned to what’s going on in a sports game, there’s no way you’ll be able to keep up. Break things down a bit to help yourself out. Ask yourself questions. Who’s on the court? Why are they positioned like that? Who’s got the ball and what could he do with it? Be curious and give the game your attention. And to make it a little easier…

Focus on one or two players

If you want a really easy time, pick the major players of the team. LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the foci of the Heat and the Thunder, respectively. Take a chance to watch their play for a whole game. What do they do differently (or better) than the other players on the team? Can you keep track of them a whole game? Which players do they interact with most frequently? If you can narrow your focus down to one player, some sportacular insights will reveal themselves.

Read about sports

Like watching sports with friends, reading about sports will give you some alternate and interesting perspectives on what’s happening. Taking any sports game out of context is going to lead to an unexciting event. There are legacies at hand—both for specific players and their teams as a whole. It’s enough to just brush up on a team or players Wikipedia page for some background knowledge.

Also: Grantland. Grantland Grantland Grantland. Any writing on this website is bound to make sports intesting. Go there when you’re done reading this and dig in. I just read an article on Lebron James that made me think of things I didn’t even know mattered. Go there.

Get emotionally invested

When I enjoy sports I’ve got to put my rational brain behind. It’s easy to think “Why do I care about some arbitrary team?” Follow that logic for most things you value and let me know when you’ve dug yourself out of your nihilist grave. Just pick a team to root for and do it. The team you back might be your home team or just a team that plays in a style you enjoy. It really doesn’t matter, so have fun with it.

That’s it

There you go, you’re ready to like sports. Congratulate yourself with this classic video:

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