My latest insight is probably not new to sports families.
Women watch sports differently than men.At least some of us do.
For good reasons, probably. For one thing, many of us don't watch sports at all* or hardly ever, and that's different; we're not as engaged in the competition thing.
But the kids came over for dinner, and since the Chicago Bulls-- Boston Celtics playoff game happened to be on, we watched and ate. Or I should say, they watched and ate. I pretty much just ate, then slipped away to do a few other things.
Finally tired of doing whatever it was that needed doing, I joined them to find the game in over-time, double or triple overtime, and my son is screaming into his cell-phone, calling the plays to a friend of his in New York who for some reason is looking for an apartment, not glued to his set.
And my daughter-in-law is enjoying it too, along with the very long kid who lives with me, and everyone is cheering on the Bulls, for the Bulls are the Chicago home team and we're all Chicagoans. This rousing sense of unity makes me feel happy, and also makes me think that people should seriously consider marrying a hometown honey, or someone near enough to home, if only to cheer for the same team. This one thing we've got effectively eliminates a dangerous source of contention.
As long as I'm watching already, I notice that the men who play for the Bulls and the Celtics are absolutely gorgeous human specimens, tall, muscular, graceful athletes. This does add to the enjoyment of the game, this observation.
Anyway, one of the differences between the ways women and men watch basketball is that women are more likely to worry about the team members than the outcome of the game. We probably care way too much, is the truth. But watching these athletes over-exert themselves on the court (as well as elbow, shove, trip, and otherwise foul one another) is hard work, frankly. We don't want to see anyone get hurt. We want them to stop running and have a bite to eat. We want them to rest for awhile. We get angry at the coaches for working them so hard. These young men seem beyond tired at the end of nearly two hours of running. Over-time adds up.
The Bulls take the lead, they lose the lead.
They take the lead, they lose the lead.
I see one of our guys get the ball and race down the court, only to find the Celtics defense superior. There's no getting around the Bostoners, so the guys on the Bulls throw wildly, why not, anywhere within a mile of the basket will do. They miss points shamelessly, clearly ready to plotz. (Plotz, rhymes with pots, Yiddish for faint or fall down laughing hysterically, depending upon the context).
"Why are they doing this?" I ask the television set. "Why are they shooting from so far away? They're obviously too tired to make the basket, not strong enough at this point in the game." But what do I know?
My married son, the one on the phone, is irate and agrees. "Of course they are! They should be bringing it in, bringing that ball under the basket! They're exhausted!"
One of the Bulls, Kirk Hinrich, finds himself holding the ball at a crucial moment. They're all crucial. Kirk is free. No Celtics in sight. He's wide open, he rushes the basket. Everyone is sure he will make it. He blows the shot.
"Oh, no!" my d-i-l cries, not because he doesn't make the shot, but because she feels terrible for him. Everyone will spleen him now, be mad at him for missing the shot.
This is how women see sports. "They're not going to let him live it down," she moans. "Poor guy."
And the men in the room agree, although they're not sympathetic, particularly. Kirk messed up. It was a crucial play and he blew it.
Then. Out of nowhere. Joakim Noah, another one of our guys, a really big one with big fuzzy hair pulled back in a fabulous ponytail, you can't imagine him not having this ponytail, charges down the court with confidence, determination, and incredible speed, ball under his arm. He makes the game winning shot, slams it mercilessly through the hoop, brute strength. So fabulous. The cameras are on Noah, the crowd's going wild. I've never seen him before in my life but I'm watching his face and it is humble and warm. He's sweet. And he seems quiet, tired.
"I'll bet he's nice to his mother," I suggest.
No one says anything, but they probably agree.
*Sure, it's a stereotype.