SportingNerds.com – A Justification

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/virtualsugar

Being a passionate sports fan means that I live in two worlds – the one I share with other sports fans and the one I share with non-fans.  Connecting with other sports fans means that I’ll always have something to talk about, even if I’ve never met the other person and we’re just at the bar on a football Sunday. We can always talk about the game, and how ridiculous Tom Brady’s hair is or how Jerry Jones is beginning to look more and more like Katherine Helmond from “Brazil” every season. It’s an instant bond that can cement friendships and even heal nations (few people know that the thaw between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat at Camp David began when they both realized that they were Oakland Raiders fans).

On the other hand, there’s almost a “secret shame” to being a sports fan when I am dealing with non-sports fans – that they’ll look at me differently because I’m in a fantasy football league or have gone to a NASCAR race. I feel as though I might as well be wearing a sandwich board that says “Is a Sports Fan – Please Deduct 50 IQ Points.” I want to find a way to impress upon people that just because I can argue the merits of using a closer in the eighth inning doesn’t mean that I can’t also have a meaningful discussion on French New Wave films. But the whole thing seems ridiculous or, more likely, pointless. Instead, I do my best to not mention sports unless I am in a secure, comfortable place around other sports fans.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/elfidomx

So why am I like this? More importantly, why is there such a schism between being a sports fan and not? After all, people can be passionate to the point of being obsessive about any other number of frivolous things and not feel the potential for being shamed or humiliated. As a society, we’ve become more accepting of “nerdom” than ever before. Hundreds of thousands of people went to Comic-Con last month to engage in panel discussions on the sociological significance of Cosplay or get the guy who plays “Dr. Who” to autograph their scale model of the TARDIS; meanwhile, millions of sports fans go to arenas and stadiums every year while wearing face paint and “replica” jerseys while shoving eight-year-old kids out of the way to try and grab a foul ball. So tell me – who is the nerd here?

On the surface, it’s hard to delineate a difference between the two worlds, but the two groups would likely self-identify as far apart as Republicans and Democrats, cat lovers and hunters or vegans and Texans. Is there a difference in how the two groups are perceived by the “outside world?” Perhaps – if you go to Comic-Con, the average person probably senses that you are very smart but socially awkward, while they see most fans as dumber and drunker. It’s “Revenge of the Nerds” come to life, and if you are a sports fan, you’re Ted McGinley.

This site is an attempt to bridge the gap between sports fans and the rest of the world, and also to understand what makes us as sports fans act like we do. Because, let’s face it, we do tend to bring a lot of our problems on ourselves: we tend to fall into cliches, ramble on when it’s clear people don’t care as much as we do, and generally turn off the rational part of our brains at the wrong times. Being a sports fan doesn’t mean you have to fall into trite stereotypes, but we all do it far too often.

During the course of the next months/years/whenever we get bored and start making Lego movies instead, we’ll be trying to engage in conversations – some funny, some patently goofy – about why sports matter, and what it means to be a sports fan. We’ll also talk about sports too – this isn’t going to turn into some dry series of “Intro to Sociology” dissertations on the meaning of sports. At the same time, don’t expect a slideshow of the “100 Hottest Baseball Wives” either; there’s a middle ground to find here.

We are guys who love sports, sometimes beyond our capacity to understand why. And not in a meatheaded, “TEAM X RULEZ AND UR TEAM SUX!!!” way or a hipster way where you don’t really love baseball but you wear ironic T-shirts referencing 70s players you’ve barely heard of and are part of a baseball fantasy league with names like “Death Cab for Cubbies” or “MGMT OPS+.” We have weird sports obsessions (defunct Kansas City indoor soccer teams, sprint car racing) that we’ll get into. We’re going to have a podcast where you can hear our sonorous voices waxing rhapsodical about the sports issues of the day. Essentially, our goal is to make this a refuge from the hyperbole and screaming that is usually associated with sports media.

That, or to get popular enough to sell out to ESPN. Whichever comes first.

Richard Manfredi was once quoted in the New York Times as part of a pre-Super Bowl article as an “expert” along with Buzz Bissinger and Mark Kriegel. He still finds this very strange.

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