Over the weekend, I had the following interaction with a visitor to campus:
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“New York,” he replied. “How about you?”
“I’m from Oakland.”
“Oh, that’s cool. What’s your team?”
“I don’t really follow sports.”
“Uh, if I had to pick one, it’d be the A’s.”
“That’s really sad. I feel really sorry for you.”
I’m like, all right, great—I’m getting my balls busted by another Yankees fan. I’ve had this exact conversation at least five times since I came to Wesleyan, and each time I’ve been less sure of how to respond.
I could always go with, “Well, stereotypically speaking, everyone hates you,” but that’s just diving into a whole history of animosity that I know nothing about.
“Well, we’re in the playoffs this year, and you’re not,” I could say, but that’s something I literally had to look up after the fact, and it’s not a road I want to go down if it comes up again. I mean, what if he asks me to compare playoff histories? Good God, what if he asks me what a playoff is?
This time, I just tried to change the subject.
“Well, the A’s just had that movie ‘Moneyball’ made about them, and that was pretty good, and I’m a film major, so let’s talk about movies.”
“What about ‘61*’?” he shot back. “What about ‘The Babe Ruth Story’? What about ‘The Pride of the Yankees’?”
Seriously? From where I’m sitting, Yankees fans’ immature quest for whatever they’re looking for from the rest of the country—begrudging respect, temper tantrums—has led them down a hole where they have to pathetically assert their dominance not just in the stadium, but across all fields of culture. Ugh, right?! He just…ugh! I haven’t even seen those movies! He hit me where it hurts!
Back in Oakland (I’m basing this claim mostly off high school), fans of the A’s and Giants would always have at each other, but it’s not a conversation you’d ever get sucked into if it weren’t your area of interest. As someone who can enjoy watching sports but gets nauseous from the extremist culture surrounding them, I never had to make “no sports” a huge part of who I am.
The vaguely hippy-ish climate of my Bay Area, akin to Wesleyan’s in a lot of ways, made it such that sports fans never got comfy asserting the importance of last night’s game. They were the odd men (and women, I guess) out, unless they congregated. When sports fans met at my high school, they weren’t just bonding over a common reference point, but establishing an intimate connection. But by interacting with the amazingly diverse student body of New Yorkers here at Wesleyan, I’m beginning to realize that that’s not the case everywhere else.
Aside from my beloved hometown, liberal arts colleges, and Williamsburg, where in the country can I settle that’s free from the threat of sports haranguing? When the small talk at parties I attend shifts from the latest Jezebel articles and experimental rap acts to fantasy teams, where will I stand? At this point, if I found out on the first day of my first real job that the office culture (That’s way too presumptuous. Restaurant kitchen culture? Walmart greeter culture?) puts a premium on sports talk, I’d prefer quitting to going online and doing my damn research.
I couldn’t do that, of course, because money is important, and also because getting along with the people you have to work with is important. Wesleyan’s a fine place to let your freak flag fly and delve into weirdo/elitist hobbies, but when we leave the bubble, like it or not, those common reference points might become a lot closer to our hearts. Not for the purposes of sucking up to people, but for paving the way to the kinds of casual, nourishing connections that we might be taking for granted here at the tiny school of our dreams.
Maybe there are good reasons to get into sports when I graduate. Functional, professional relationships and brief chats with passersby aren’t something that a lot of Wesleyan students have to experience daily; we’re usually either dealing within clear systems of authority or surrounded by people we have things in common with. But where will we be in a year, two years, three? What’s the point in defining yourself in passive opposition to the office’s hangout at a sports bar after work?
My first day of work is going to be like showing up to a party by myself, only there will be no alcohol, and everyone will be a million times more miserable. My closest friends might appreciate my obsession with Godzilla, but that’s not the kind of thing I can spam my coworkers with right out of the gate.
We’ve all got to start somewhere. What can you say?
“Fuck the Yankees. Fuck them all, and their stupid fans.”
Keller is a member of the class of 2014.