Why I Don’t Enjoy Sports

June 14, 2009

I had an epiphany this past Friday about why I don’t really enjoy participating in sports all that much.

I went out golfing with the grad student assisting my research group and another REU-er. The grad student brought his friends, and all of them had golfed before. Both I and the other undergraduate had never golfed before. I actually didn’t end up golfing (I came up with some lame excuse involving the fact that there were five of us and they really only wanted groups of four). Instead, I tagged along and acted as the caddy to the other undergrad. I’m pretty sure I enjoyed myself much more than I would have had I golfed.

Listening to the other undergrads experience helped crystallize in my mind why I never really enjoyed sports. Throughout the night, he got more and more excited as he improved (and he did improve considerably from the first hole to the eighteenth hole). He told me that he gets pretty competitive and always wants to improve whenever he plays a sport.

And there it was: I’m not really all that competitive. At least, I don’t think I am. That is, I’m not consciously all that competitive. So, when I walk on a sporting field, having spent very little time honing my skills, I’m already below average in terms of general athleticism (catching / throwing objects, blocking people, running and avoiding obstacles, etc.). Add to that below average athleticism that fact that I also (a) don’t really care to get batter and (b) don’t like looking like an idiot in front of other people, it’s really no wonder that I dislike sports. They’re basically a giant incubator for (potentially) looking like an idiot in front of tons of people (mainly because they’re meant to NOT look like an idiot and thus signal your fitness, skills, etc.) and are meant TO allow for improvement and competitiveness. That second trait is almost the definition of a sport.

I don’t know what that says about me. Probably nothing good. But it does say that if I ever want to improve on my sporting skills and actually make playing recreational sports fun, I will have to drastically rework the way I think about sports in general. And I don’t really know if I think it’s worth it. I’ve learned how to ride a bike (thanks Dave!), and I can swim passably well. Those are survival skills if nothing else. Throwing and catching a ball only becomes a survival inasmuch as it is a great way to socialize. So by not participating in such activities out of apathy, I’m closing down a viable source of group bonding.

Yeah, that’s probably not good.

In a side note, I wonder why I enjoy martial arts? I started that at a young age (maybe around 2nd grade… I don’t really remember). I never ever disliked it, through the 10+ years that I participated in it a group program. And yet martial arts displays all the same indicators of things that I don’t enjoy: performing in front of a group, progressively becoming better via feedback and competition, etc. It’s kind of weird that I would like that and not like other sports. Maybe the very basic, mechanical level of martial arts interests me more? And now, it probably has more to do with the Eastern philosophy aspect and the general necessity of keeping in shape (the same reason that I enjoy running).

There you have it. After all that speculation, we have ended where we started: I suck at games involving balls. :P

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One Response to “Why I Don’t Enjoy Sports”

  1. daveinthewest said

    Well… if I may, I would probably suggest that at some point, your frustration with sports led to a sour grapes attitude. And normally I wouldn’t say such a thing, but your interest in martial arts seems to be an indicator of such.

    Martial Arts is something that’s important to you. You’ve known it for a while, you’ve practiced it, and you’ve interacted with others around it. It is a lifestyle.

    In order to accept martial arts into your life, you need the very same attitude that you need to play other sports well. Thus, you have a competitive nature. It’s just been drowned out by pain and embarrassment. Sports are about learning to control the pain and not to fear embarrassment. But it also depends on whether you think you will achieve the proper mental rewards for your efforts. If you don’t believe so, then sports are not for you.

    And that’s my opinion, straight from my ass and still steaming a little bit.

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