My favourite three spectator sports.
In Joe writing news, I haven’t written an article since Sunday. I had the last three posts scheduled from Sunday afternoon, when I saw Karate Kid and have taken a few days off for something more important. More on that later. However, the article I had planned for today feels a big too tough to write at the moment, so I thought I’d do something lighter. Not filler, just lighter. Something more slice-of-life-y than big, intellectual discourse on media. So while “Quality is not binary.” (working title) will likely be written and go up tomorrow, today I’m going to talk sports.
I know nothing of sports. Absolutely jack. If you were to talk to me about anything to do with sports, you should expect me to know as much about them as you know about depth of field and how it directs the eye through a scene. However, like everyone in the world knows what movies they like to watch or knows what books they’re interested in reading, I know what sports I like watching. I intended to make this a top five post, but outside of Olympic competition, there are only three sports that get any form of coverage that I like to watch. Honorable mentions thus go to women’s speedskating and luge/skeleton. Great sports.
First, in no particular order, is rugby. Americans are obsessed with football, a game played almost entirely with the hands. Growing up, I was always vaguely alienated by football. How was it considered manly that grown men put on tights and wore outfits to emphasize their muscles, then got into very close quarters with each other and celebrated every victory with hugging and bum-patting? I guess I’ve been straight since before I learned to read. Yet, grown men celebrated this sport with the same gusto they should’ve been applying to, say, intercourse or nudity in film. There were entire sections of society so very dedicated to this activity that commerce was based on it. It was just weird. Then I found out about rugby.
This was a revelation. It was football but without any of the implicit homoeroticism. These are skinny, wiry guys in shirts and shorts with skinned teeth and highly physical gameplay. Every part of rugby is designed to keep it moving. There are very few stops in play and there is no opportunity to check strategy every time the ball touches the ground. Every pass is made backwards, making rugby a game entirely based around running and running and not getting nailed. If you’re playing rugby and you aren’t running, you’re playing it wrong. It’s just a nice change of pace from the cover-based-shooting of football, this bullet-hell, evasion-based fps. From the point of view of a guy just watching to watch? That‘s how you play a sport.
Second on my list, just as British, but almost entirely different in pace, play, viewership or build of the athlete is darts. I remember when I was eight–at least, I think it was over the winter of ’98-’99–my family took a two week vacation to Britain. I forget where we were (it started with an A), I forget where we stayed (their fries were delicious, the rest of the food was made of blood), I forget almost all of that trip. But I remember British television. I remember it very well for featuring two things I’d never seen on television before: tits and darts. The tits I remember for the obvious reason. The fun part was that they were actually part of a sketch comedy show; they were supposed to be a new way to wash your shower.
Darts, however, stuck with me to this day, and I’m not sure why. It could be the apparent simplicity and surprising depth of the gameplay–shedding 501 points before your opponent, while finishing on a double. This can be achieved in a number of ways, with most point-shedding being achieved through a combination of triple-twenties and triple-nineteens. It could be the appearance of the competitors–often overweight and not-exactly-attractive British men. The kind of guys you see in pubs all the time. Regular dudes who happen to have brilliant hand-eye coordination and arithmetical ability. Well, those uglies and James Wade. Prettiest darts thrower in Premier League play. The mix of casual gameplay and hyperbolic commentary/announcements is just a bonus.
Last is the uniquely Canadian game of curling. I’m well aware that it was the Scots that invented curling, don’t get all up on me in the comments about it. But even the first world championship of curling, held in Scotland, was won by a team from Regina, Saskatchewan. You can’t lay a claim to a sport just because you invented it. We have the movies, TV series and television broadcasts to back up our claim. Our commercials feature curling, our people are all familiar with curling. Canada is the curling nation, in addition to hockey. So suck on that, Scotland and Russia. Suck on it and cry.
So why do I like to watch a game where every play takes over five seconds to complete? Where people literally throw stones at a house over ice and sweep said ice to get them to the button? Several reasons, not least of which is the quiet sense of nationalist pride no Canadian will admit to. We’re a quiet nation, having learned early on from our sibling to the south that being a brash loudmouth about how awesome you are doesn’t endear your neighbours to you. No, we keep quiet about ourselves, preferring to have exclusive knowledge of something we don’t clue you in on. Like how awesome curling is. There’s a reason the stadium filled with O Canada during the Gold Medal game at the 2010 Olympics.
So I watch curling to be able to say I’m a proper Canadian. Yep. Proper Canadian. I am doing my Canadian duty by cheering for our curlers and watching all the curling tournaments I can on TV and in person. It’s totally about being Canadian.