So, in case you hadn’t already realized it from the countless television ads and store promotions, it’s Valentine’s Day. Technically a holiday that honors a handful of early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine, today it is better known as a day on which people express their love. I’d honestly rather write about golf than anything romantic, but I don’t want to be accused of being a spoilsport. So, in my effort not to kill the mood, I’m going to talk about my love–of sports.
My first love was Formula 1. I started casually flicking on the TV every other Sunday to watch the races, but soon I was besotted. The time I devoted to F1 spread from the two-hour race window to the entire weekend, from first practice through qualifying. My relationship became an obsession; I never missed a race, tuning in even while on vacation. I scoured racing magazines from front to back, reading every single word devoted to the sport. I had an unhealthy knowledge of statistics, down to a lap-by-lap memory of races. I thought this would last forever, but then F1 began to change. It started flirting with the idea of drawing in new fans and inadvertently lost me. I can’t quite say when, but somewhere along the way we drifted apart.
That is when I really began to notice soccer. I can’t lie and say I’d never played or watched the game before–I am, after all, English–but outside of the World Cup and kicking a ball around in the park, it didn’t play a huge part in my life. Perhaps it was better that way. Soccer is the one sport that always breaks my heart. There is nothing quite like seeing your local team relegated–that desperate fall from grace into an unknown abyss–or your national team coming up short (yet again). When I was a child, I guess I never quite realized how deeply soccer runs in the fabric of English life and how deeply the pain of consistent international failure cuts. I’m not even sure if I enjoy watching the sport–it’s such a painful experience, even when my team wins–but nothing in this world, nothing at all, matters more than soccer.
There are others, too, probably more than I want to mention in detail here. With cricket and rugby, it was never love at first sight. I honestly hated the two sports as a kid. Maybe it was some sort of rebellion against my family–my brother, father and grandfather were all fans–but just like onions, when I grew up I actually found myself enjoying them.
On this side of the Atlantic, basketball was my first American crush. Unlike other American sports, I had actually played this (albeit badly–I always seemed to end up sliding across the floor on my ass), so it is the one with which I feel I have at least some cultural connection. My childhood best friend also moved to Massachusetts for a couple of years when I was a kid, and through him and his brothers I found out about Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal. Now, even if it will never be able to compete with soccer for my affections, the college season, especially in March, is a highlight of my year.
And finally I get to my current flirtation, football. This is the one that really makes no sense, as we share pretty much nothing in common. I get frustrated by the long breaks in play and struggle to get excited about the very narrow roles of many of the players. Some might spend their entire careers without even touching the football, let alone actively participating. It should also simply be genetically impossible for me to like this game; it’s not football, it’s American football. Football is soccer. And yet I traveled to two major Stanford road games last year, and I am already thinking about visiting Notre Dame next October and getting back to campus ahead of the start of term to hopefully catch another victory over the Trojans.
I can no longer deny that I like college football. Just don’t tell soccer.
Tom Taylor’s early love for Formula 1 leads us to believe that he’s still looking for “the one.” Provide ideas for more acceptable mates at tom.taylor “at” stanford.edu.