I alternate between enjoying following sports and being baffled by how much of life revoles around them. I understand the appeal, but empathize with those who don't. One of my favorite scenes from The Office is when Michael, desperate to fit in, asks Jim, "Did you see the game last night?"
"Any of them."
Why do we pour our time, money, and energy into teams? Why do we buy the shirts, travel to games, order the television packages, and celebrate victories as if they were are own? Why do we wake up at strange hours to watch an event happening in another part of the world?
Sports feed our desire for belonging and for stories.
Becoming a fan is like joining a tribe of sorts. You now have something in common with thousands, even millions of strangers. A co-worker introduced me to English football years ago and in particular, his team of choice, Arsenal. Soon after, I began to share his obsession and now, I find myself having conversations with people in airports and new cities simply on the basis of wearing an Arsenal shirt.
We seek out community wherever we can find it and sports are one of the most accessible and widespread ways to have a communal experience.
We also crave stories. When you follow a team, you're invited into an ongoing story that stretches for decades or centuries. It's a story that's woven into the fabric of a city and shared with generations of friends and families.
Each team's history is full of great feats and endless disappointment, surpassed expectations and accepted mediocrity.
The season, though, is what's magical about sports. Each one brings with it that indispensable emotion: hope. A new season begins with optimism, no matter the history, no matter the likely disappointment. That sense of possibility is addictive.
There are young players that could be future stars and regulars that may finally reach their potential. This just might be the year that everything falls into place. Whether the goals are ambitious or more modest, the pursuit is captivating.
Funny enough, the season rarely has a happy ending, but in a blink of an eye, it's time for the next one to begin and there, for no logical reason, is that feeling once again: hope.
P.S. Without story and a sense of belonging, sports have a touch of absurdity to them. This scene from The IT Crowd captures that perfectly.
"How long does a match last?"
"A billion hours apparently."