Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Fanatical Four

The Quartet was as excited as everyone else in the city about the University of Memphis Tigers’ shot at the national championship last night. JP even made a diorama for the night, an image of a tiger dunking a basketball inside a little box. He whooped and cheered for the Tigers until they fell behind and he became discouraged, lying on the couch and burying his face in the pillows, eventually drifting into sleep. All before halftime.

It was a scene played out across the country yesterday, though possibly without the narcolepsy, but it was especially unusual for us because we don’t have a sports-minded household. Oh, sure, there are sports moments; there was the run through the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and Final Four for our hometown boys, and just last week I took The Quartet to Uncle Toby's house to witness Liverpool FC beat down Everton FC in the Merseyside Derby. And, like most households, we follow Le Tour de France every year and the World Cup every four.

But we don't follow the week-to-week progression of the NFL or the day-to-day baseball scores and stats. This is mainly because I don't have time what with working six days a week. And Kristy loathes sports. We don’t follow NASCAR because it’s a bunch of cars driving around an oval and I fall asleep and there’s yard work to do. Yet professional sports (and I lump college sports in with this, but that's a discussion for another time) have a place in our society and in growing up American.

Are my kids growing up with the full American childhood experience? With summer days on the ball field and Sunday afternoons cheering their favorite team? My son made a diorama for a college basketball game, for the love of all that is holy. Should I correct this? Probably. They should know that in this house we’re loyal to the Cubs. They should be encouraged, I suppose, to root for the hometown Grizzlies until that team moves and I have to explain money and television revenue sharing and what professional sports is really all about. They should realize, if they don’t already, that what those young men did last night in San Antonio was more than play a basketball game that would realize big money for the two universities and help to propel some of those athletes into the big leagues. They should know that that team, and that game, brought a city together, a city that is torn apart every day by the people running it, by the lowlifes on the street and by the news media. And they need to know that, at its core, it’s just a game. None of it, from the most casual soccer match in any third world country, to the most prestigious win of Tiger Woods’s career, none of it really matters in the end.

It’s all diversion, and that if you want to paint your face blue, then go ahead. If you want to dress your kids in team colors for the weekend, then by all means do so. And if you want to make yourself a diorama, well, that’d be just fine, too.