Bob practicing for the pro bowlers tour. Yes, it was a strike!
Several years ago, when I first heard a commercial on television referring to “Tiger Woods,” I thought it was a place. Fortunately, I was by myself at the time and was spared the guffaws that surely would have followed if I’d recklessly asked, “Where’s that?”
I’ve always liked to play sports and have always been good at them, but I’ve never been much of a spectator and cannot even fathom fandom. Perhaps it’s because my father was a sports writer and later a PR man for Tulane University and I spent too many nights with my younger brother at the tiptop of the stadium bleachers, where neither of us knew what the mighty Green Wave was doing on the gridiron below because we couldn’t follow the action with our unaided eyes. Dad, meanwhile, whooped it up with the well-boozed and binoculared boys in the press box above us and didn’t return to take us home until an hour or so after every single person had left the stadium. It was great fun.
When I was in my early twenties and male colleagues would comment on “the game last night,” I had no choice but to improvise. Having no idea even what sport they were talking about, much less the teams involved, I would quickly consider what time of year it was and come back with a safe, but sport-specific comment like “What a touchdown!” or “Did you see that three-pointer?” Otherwise, I would default to my trusty standby: “Great game, huh?”
I think Ivan Lendl was the last tennis pro I saw play a match on TV, against Bjorn Borg maybe? Whatever. I once saw John Newcombe up close at Tulane in the early 70s, when he was there practicing for a match. His serving arm was so much bigger than the other that he looked like a crab that had lost and regrown a claw. It was disgusting.
The jerk I worked for in Boston back in the late 80s used to go on and on about the Red Sox. After five minutes or so of his insufferable idiocy, I’d always ask, “What is that, baseball?” It drove him crazy.
My family and I watch sports on TV only three times a year: the Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont. It’s not very exciting this year, of course, what with it being clear from the start that there was no Triple Crown contender. And the feminization of the network coverage is nauseating. Every owner, every trainer, every jockey, every horse has survived some amazing heart-rending physical or emotional trauma and they’re going to relive it for us in a treacly video retrospective so we can all cry together. Who cares? Shut the hell up and start the race! Ils sont partis, already.
If we had horses of our own to race, we might not bother watching, but we don’t, so we do. And we enjoy it. Everybody picks a horse and puts up a dollar and the winner takes all. The whole thing’s over in two or three minutes and we quickly abandon our brief spectatorship.