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Personal Essays | Sports Shaming

By Jon Ziegler

I have spent more than twenty years of my life climbing trees with a chainsaw as a professional tree trimmer. I love beer, fishing, hiking, and I have tattoos. I fix my own car. I know all the words to AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” Collectively, these facts should land me well within the boundaries of a manly-man and still have points to spare. But I can crumble all of those pillars of masculinity and knock my manliness rating clear back down to zero with just one sentence. And that sentence is:

“I don’t really like sports.”

BOOM! My years of tree trimming, beer drinking and tattoo-wearing are all gone. I’m instantly transformed from a Lumberjack into Pee Wee Herman. I call it Sports-Shaming.

For most of my adult life, I’ve endured the rolling eyes, condescending remarks and even name-calling from “real” men who can speak sports fluently. To be a “real” man, one needs to know players’ names, numbers, stats, injury history, salary, what round they were picked in during the draft, and be able to recognize their girlfriend or wife when the camera shows them sitting in the stands watching the game. I know none of these things.

A real man watches every professional sports game available to him, and when there are none to be watched, they busy themselves tracking post and pre-season activities. A real man has Fantasy Football, Fantasy Baseball, Basketball, NASCAR, Golf and maybe even Curling. I watch no games and I have Fantasy Nothing.

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“What did you think about that call the ref made last night?”

Questions like that make me cringe. I don’t know what call they are referring to. I don’t even know what game they are referring to. Sometimes I don’t even know what SPORT they are talking about, but I dare not let on. I do my best to fake my way through the answer based on whether the person asking seems upset or excited. I can give a “That was AWESOME!” or a “What a load of CRAP!” according to my perception of the question-asker’s mindset.

Super Bowl Sunday is like a national holiday celebrating my sports ignorance and lack of manliness. I don’t get excited like all of my manly friends do as the game approaches. In fact, I’m secretly annoyed that Sixty Minutes won’t be on.

There is always a Super Bowl party at a friend’s house that I’m expected to attend. Every year I will start out watching the game with the guys and any wives who like sports. I will try to fit in, but I can’t contribute to any conversations without knowing all the things that a man is supposed to know about sports. I can’t even cheer properly. A hearty “YAY!” or “GO!” is all I’m confident in offering.

At some point, usually after half time, I will find myself hanging out with the rest of the wives who don’t care to watch the game. I find their conversations about Pinterest and Rubber Stamping more interesting than the conversations about sports – and less embarrassing.

Over the years I’ve done my best at hiding my lack of passion for sports by memorizing handfuls of sports-related facts. I even watch the highlights on the evening news so that I can halfway fake my manliness – but I shouldn’t have to! Society needs to accept my sportsless manliness.

I AM SPORTSLESS MAN…AND I CAN STILL ROAR!

Jon Ziegler

Jon Ziegler is the author of the humorous short story collection Single Family Asylum. The self-proclaimed nacho enthusiast draws inspiration for his writing from the chaos that takes place within the home he shares with his wife and two daughters.

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