I don’t hunt, I don’t fish, and I don’t like sports. Never have, and, if the remainder of my life goes the way I hope it will, never will. No “first-or-last hunting-or-fishing trip with grandpa” or “trying out for the team” stories are forthcoming from me.
These three facts alone have probably cost me a potential stellar reputation as a Southern writer. (Yeah, that’s what did it!)
It’s not that I hate hunting, fishing, and sports–not the first two, anyway. I understand that many people do hunt and fish, and those people make it possible for overstuffed couch potatoes like me to consume lots and lots of protein, a fact I appreciate. And yes, I’ll admit that my disdain for sports has less to do with the sports themselves than with the fans and their actions.
Coming from a sports-obsessed family, I tried to feign interest when I was young, but it never went very far. Around two minutes into the action–whether it was football, basketball, volleyball, golf, tennis, soccer, ping pong, cricket, badminton, or NASCAR–I’d grow bored and head for the nearest book to read or couch on which to take a nap.
Even worse, if someone actually dragged me to a game, I spent the seeming eternity wishing I were somewhere else. Anywhere else. I ditched pep rallies in high school. If someone found a football in my front yard, chances were good someone else either left it there or hurled it at me in a fit of righteous sports-related anger. The one time I was forced to go fishing, I got cuffed about ten minutes in because I talked, apparently having terrified lunch.
Of course, the South isn’t the only place where citizens revere hunting, fishing, and sports with a zeal normally reserved for emerging messiahs, but the folks there do tend to take it to astounding levels: offense is taken at a whim, blows are delivered, and friendships and dynasties have been torn to bits. I wonder if European soccer hooligans might occasionally learn a few techniques from my Southern sport fan brethren? Who knows?
I’ve sometimes thought that, growing up where I did, I might’ve met with less suspicion and hostility had I revealed myself to be gay, a communist, or a Democrat–or all three, better yet–than I did when I came out as a non-sports fan. And if you know anything at all about the South, you realize the import of that statement.
A common reaction to my admission of dislike for hunting/fishing/sports takes this form:
Them: “Don’t you like to (hunting/fishing/sports)?”
Them: “So if I asked you to (hunting/fishing/sports), what would you do?”
Me: “I’d say no.”
Me: “Because I don’t (hunting/fishing/sports).”
Them: (After a pause.) “Well, I like to (hunting/fishing/sports).”
Me: “That’s awesome.”
Them: (After another pause.) “Lots of other people like to (hunting/fishing/sports), too.”
As if this last pronouncement will change my mind, cause me to see what a fool I’ve been. Or, better yet, as if my initial judgment also contained a) the implicit, misguided assumption that no one else in the world likes hunting/fishing/sports or b) the declaration that no one else should like hunting/fishing/sports.
But I’m not out to convert anyone. It’s just the way I’m wired.
I know fishing, hunting, and sports stories are supposed to be metaphors for other things, deeper truths: basketball is life, and all that. For that matter, though, a walk to the mailbox can be a metaphor for life, in the hands of the right writer. I also know that the common wisdom is to write what you know. So if hunting, fishing, and sports are some of the ways others relate to the world, good for them. And if their stories are good–not just good hunting, fishing, or sports stories–I’ll probably read them. I just can’t write them.
Religion, now. There’s something I can write about.