For a short time in my life, I distanced myself from previous sports fandom. Sports are, after all, kind of silly and often rather repetitive. But they drew me back in, for a variety of reasons, but I think the larger meta-reason is described better by King Kaufman today than I’ve ever seen before, as he writes:
We tell and listen to stories because they say things to us. Sometimes they say things about their subjects, sometimes about their tellers. If Leo Durocher didn’t really help himself to Babe Ruth’s watch after helping the drunken slugger into bed one too many times, well, he was a guy who would have done that, wasn’t he? And if the Babe hadn’t knocked the stuffing out of him over it, he would have, right?
And more important, these stories remind us that we know things like this about guys like that. They tie us to all the other baseball stories, and all the people who tell them and listen to them. Details aside, they’re all about the same thing, about being part of a crowd that cares about the same thing. Because you’re not getting past the table of contents if you’re not part of that crowd, the crowd that cares about baseball. [emphasis added]
Sports are, in the end, just another kind of story – but a really good story, one with a template that anyone can understand, that can be told over and over again in nearly infinite variation despite being almost the same. What kind of sport-story you like, and how you relate to it, says a lot about who you are – we all instinctively know this, and so can find trust and camaraderie in being fans of the same teams. There’s a kind of story and relation to the story that goes along with being a baseball fan – a different one that goes with being a soccer fan (in the United States), which is different from being a fútbol fan (everywhere else in the world) – which in turn is a different than being a curling fan (i.e., you’re Canadian, or King Kaufman). And there’s a different story that Yankees fans can relate to versus Mets fans, or Cubs fans versus… anyone; but you find that repeated with slight variations in Manchester United vs. Manchester City fans, or Tottenham Hotspur fans, or Arsenal fans, etc. ad infinitum. We are the stories we tell, but we’re also the stories we receive, and we’re especially the stories we receive together.