I grew up hating sports because I was scared of the way playing sports made me feel — as if time sped up and left me behind.
My senior year of high school I played two sports, both times because the teams needed me to field a team. The first — boy’s soccer — wasn’t much fun for me. Time moved too fast, and I was very bad.
Then there was softball — the only sport I’ve actually ever enjoyed playing for itself.
My first at bat, I didn’t know the difference between a ball or a strike. When I woke up the morning after, I had no plans to ever play softball again, but a couple months later I had fallen in love with a sport I would never get to play again.
And you know what I loved about softball? It was slow. I had time — time to think, to understand, to play and to love the game I was playing.
And you know something else about softball? It’s not the slowest sport. Baseball is slower and technically more “boring” and the only reason people like it more than softball is the patriarchy, but this isn’t about that, because I love baseball. I love it more than softball and you know why? Because it is slower.
I freaking love the “boring” sports. I don’t think they’re boring. They’re just not hurried.
There’s a lot that goes on in every sport, but it’s not every sport where you’re given the time to understand it. There’s no time on a clock. There’s just a game and the people that play that game, and a million tiny things they have to do to win.
I don’t want sports with “non-stop action,” but sports where the action is earned. A hit is special because it doesn’t come easily. A home run is moving because it is rare. Your heart stops and so does time, if only for a second.
I’ll be honest. I don’t spend a lot of time following baseball. I rarely watch it on TV. I wish I had time. I try to watch in person, but right now as I write this, my school’s number one baseball team is playing and I really wish I was outside in the beautiful sun instead of inside writing these words that I should have written this weekend.
This weekend I was instead working a golf tournament for my sport management class. Golf is the only sport more boring than baseball. But you know what? Over this weekend I found myself falling for another boring sport. It was there, at the Professional Golfers’ Association tour’s Valero Texas Open, that I found a lot of things to appreciate about the sport.
Like baseball, it is beautiful in scenery. Courses are beautiful in the way that baseball diamonds are spectacular. They tell a story even when they are empty. The spectators, similarly to baseball, are respectful of the game, but they also seemed to have fun. They have time to relax and enjoy — not just the sport, but the environment around it.
Golf itself takes it time. The golfers examine their options. They squat, taking time to line up the ball and the hole, as their gloves hang out of the pockets of their dressy looking pants. They practice their putt or their swing or their chip or whatever. They speak to their caddy and then — the crowd grows hushed, and they do the thing. You know, he hits the ball with the club towards a hole. And you can hear the collective suspense in the air as the combined voices of the crowd wish the golfer to succeed. No matter how many strokes it takes, he is given a polite applause when he, you know, gets the ball in the hole.
Golf is easy to understand. That’s it. The ball goes in the hole, preferably with less strokes. That’s all you need to know to enjoy the sport a little bit, but as you watch, you notice more and more details and enjoy it a little bit more with each detail. It’s a simple game with a complexity that doesn’t demand to be noticed, but whispers to be considered.
In every sport, athletes think. They plan. They decide. They take actions. But in the boring sports, they have time to consider, to weigh, to chew, to spit — and I have time to take it all in and understand and appreciate all the million little moments that make each game beautiful.
As a pitcher and catcher confer silently to choose a pitch and as the golfer eyes the ball, a spectator may turn to their neighbor and tell a joke or take a sip of an over-priced beer. Then the athlete, with singular focus, enacts an action with uncertain outcome.
A hush falls over the crowd. Someone swings a stick. A small, white ball moves through the air. We know where we want it to land. We know what we want to happen, but it’s all in the air.
It’s all in the air.
And I’m not bored at all.