By Jacob Jaffe
At any given time, there are far too many sports going on in the world, or even just on campus, to keep track of. I mean, right now we’ve got NFL playoffs, Australian Open, NBA, NHL and college basketball, all in full swing in the national media. That’s not even counting the endless offseason chatter about other sports, and of course all the sports that don’t reach the same level of fame on American sports networks.
So with all these different sports vying for your attention, along with all the Stanford teams competing in the winter, what should you focus on? So often this question is answered with the author’s preference for what you should be watching. But the answer is far more obvious.
Whatever the hell you want.
You’re the one watching, so watch what you like. I mean, sure, I can point out games that have particularly interesting backstories or are particularly meaningful for the teams involved. But at the end of the day, you’re the one that’s going to be experiencing it, so do what you want. It’s the same reason I have soundtracks to Wicked and Hairspray on my iPod and more albums by John Williams than by anyone else. It’s my music, and I’m going to listen to what I want.
Why can’t it be the same way for sports? I’m all about watching football and will probably be that way for the rest of my life. I encourage every Stanford student to go to the football games for the entire experience of the Red Zone. But I know plenty of people who just can’t get into football, and at some point we all just have to respect that.
For some people it’s football, but for others it’s baseball or water polo or cricket or sailing or any number of things. Just because some are more popular does not mean they are more valid. People have thousands of reasons to prefer the sports they do. Maybe you grew up doing gymnastics. Maybe your best friend runs track. Maybe that cute girl from your psych section is on the squash team and you want her to notice you cheering her on. Who’s to say what a “legitimate” reason is for watching a sport?
I’m the kind of person that will turn on the vast majority of sports and just watch to enjoy the game itself. It can be bowling or Aussie rules football or golf or the NBA Finals. To me, most sports are fun to watch just because of what they are. But most people aren’t like me. Most people do other things with their lives than watch first-round coverage of the Australian Open and SWAC college basketball. If it gets people involved in sports and watching them, I’m all for it. Even if you’re really just there because you like Tom Brady’s haircut (there’s probably someone in the world that does) or because your friend went to the same high school as Andy Roddick and can dish the dirt on how he’s always been a douche bag.
Sometimes, personal connections can make watching sports that much more special. Any proud parent can tell you what it means to see little Billy out there winning the big game. For me, one of the highlights of my time at Stanford was watching my good friend Chris Derrick set an American Junior record in the 5,000 meters. I knew nothing about track coming in, but the goosebumps I got as he staggered down the final straightaway with a chance to break the record will stand up there with any I’ve had in my life.
I also had the good fortune of forming a connection with the men’s volleyball team. With no background in volleyball (and being several inches shorter than even the liberos), I had no clue what I was getting into when I was assigned to cover the team as a freshman. After two seasons of watching these guys play, I was so hooked that watching the team’s national championship victory in a packed Maples Pavilion still rates among my top five sports moments ever.
But that’s just me. For you it could be rowing or figure skating or equestrian. This is what people at the Capital One Cup don’t understand: sports are all great, regardless of the amount of media hype or money involved. Passion makes sports—passion from the athletes and passion from the fans.
Support the sports you love, and try some new ones. You never know when you’ll get hooked.
Jacob Jaffe is simply a man of passion. Connect with him at jwjaffe “at” stanford.edu.