Wait … So Who’s Playing Again?

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To her credit, the author correctly spelled “Art Schlichter.” But, well, she almost certainly Googled it.

Shelagh Connor Shapiro‘s new novel is Shape of the Sky, published by Wind Ridge Books of Vermont. Here, she writes about her love of all things not sports.

Shelagh Connor Shapiro
Shelagh Connor Shapiro

The other day, I was reading a book in which the main character’s husband suffers from face blindness, an actual disorder in which a person is unable to recognize faces. So the character’s husband could never spot her in public. Which would suck, really. I can’t imagine how annoying it would be, on top of all the other indignities of sharing a life (washing the other person’s socks, to name just one thing), if your spouse didn’t recognize you on the street. This might be a deal-breaker for me.

On the other hand, when I began to think a bit more about the syndrome, I realized I can relate. Because I am sports blind. If the other members of my family—all of whom happen to be men, but that’s not really where I’m taking this—are watching a game, and I try to join in, I end up just irritating everybody. I’m the person in the room who doesn’t know who’s playing. Who doesn’t know which team is wearing white with blue, and which is wearing blue with white. I cannot for the life of me follow who has the ball, or who had it a minute ago, who fumbled it, who intercepted. If I ask questions, I’m evicted in short order. Which I can understand, really, because I’ve asked the questions so many times before.

“Wait, so why are they all screaming?”

“Because that guy just pulled that other guy’s face mask,” my son will say. He won’t even try using team names or player names. It’s all lost on me. He’s nice to even respond. And yes, okay, my mother was this way, too. But I know so many women who do follow sports. I don’t think it’s a girl thing.

My sister lived in New Orleans for many years, and she’s a big fan of the Saints. Just between you and me, though, I’m not sure it’s a true love of the team or the sport. I think it’s more about being able to shout “Who dat?” over and over, until you frankly just want to strangle her.

I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and my friend Suzy was the daughter of a really involved and important OSU family. They used to invite me to come with them and sit in the box at Ohio State football games. That was back when Woody Hayes was coaching and Art Schlichter was quarterback. I met some of the players. You’d think I’d be able to remember who, just for bragging rights. But I wouldn’t know who to brag about. It’s sad, really. People feel sorry for me. (I never saw Woody hit anyone. Probably I’d have remembered that.)

I have to thank Steve Almond for taking off some of the pressure, around football, anyway. At least it’s now acceptable to skip a game, head upstairs with your laptop to watch another on-demand episode of Breaking Bad, while you listen to roars of excitement from the family room downstairs.

Sadly, it’s not just football. It’s futball. It’s basketball. It’s hockey. I can’t even convincingly make fun of curling during the Olympics. It’s that bad.

Lucky for me, this is not a deal-breaker for my husband. Our sons are all grown up and gradually leaving home. The youngest is away at college right now. So when the games are on, Jerry opens a couple of beers and invites me to sit with him and watch. Maybe I knit. Maybe I read a book. It’s all right. He lets me keep him company. And if, a few days later, I let slip in front of friends that we watched the Penn State game and what a shame it is that they’re doing so badly (“Or wait, are they the ones who are doing badly…?“), he doesn’t roll his eyes at what a poser I am. He lets me pretend to be like everyone else. And then he redirects the conversation on my behalf, asking, “How did people feel about the halftime show?”