Tonight marks the start of the New Orleans Saints' football season. Okay, well, pre-season, anyway. I love watching the Saints; win or lose, I enjoy every second of it. I may not be as huge of a sports fan as others, but between my Saints and Pelicans née Hornets love I consider myself a sports fan.
I read up about the Saints' and Pelicans' opposing teams before the games so I can get a feel for what's in store. I look at past game scores and plays and even a Wikipedia entry or two to learn more about the teams. I watch every game and I go to as many as my bank account allows. I may only own one jersey, but I cling to that #22 Porter jersey like a security blanket. I mute the TV to avoid Cris Collinsworth or Troy Aikman or the other talking heads on there and tune my radio to WWL to listen to Hokey and Jim Henderson call the game.
I played baseball as a kid -- a shitty right fielder, but ranked #8 in the league with my batting average. And I was fast! I collected baseball cards and stored them in binders. Still got my Bobby Bonilla rookie card I bought with my own money as a kid. I tried out for each and every team in grade school -- flag football, basketball, cabbage ball -- though I never made the teams.
But more than all of that, I'm a huge freakin' nerd. Or, at least, I do things widely lumped into the "geek" or "nerd" categories. I write code all day at work, and then I come home and write more code for fun. I love puns. I took things apart as a kid to see how they worked and still do, only now I can usually put them back together. I play video games, and not the Maddens or the 2Kwhatevers -- Animal Crossing, Kid Icarus, and pretty much anything with Mario in it. I'm kind of a pretentious, pedantic person who loves that he accidentally used alliteration just now. First and foremost, people see me as a geek or a nerd. Whatever any of that means, that's how people see me.
But I can jump into a conversation about the Saints' defense just as easily as I can a conversation about PHP. And there's nothing wrong with that. I like what I like. People like things sometimes.
And that brings me to my entire point, here. Why do people feel the need to hide that they like something just because it's outside of the "community" of which they consider themselves to be a part? Whenever football season starts back up, I see a deluge of tweets and Facebook statuses with things like "What's a football?" "YAY SPORTSBALL" and other sarcastic things where the poster is purporting to be so enthralled in their "nerdiness" that they're completely ignorant to the existence of a particular sport. I'm not here to pick on people for making jokes this way -- lord (Voldemort) knows I've done similar things -- and I know some people are being genuine in their apathy toward sports, but I often feel that there are lots of self-identified geeks and nerds that avoid discussing sports simply because they're afraid it'll destroy their "nerd-cred" which is pretty ridiculous.
This is literally how I look.
The Geek/Nerd "community" is built on people who have been excluded by other groups based on their likes and dislikes and found common ground with people who like the same things and feel the same way. One of the core ethos of "geek culture" is being all-inclusive and accepting. So there should never be any fear of being excluded because you like watching some sports. And, as your mother most certainly told you, if your friends are willing to stop hanging out with you just because you like something they don't, then they're not really good friends, are they?
In the interest of fairness, the converse is also true -- those who do not consider themselves to be "geeky" or "nerdy" will love to make comments like "Hey, how many jiggawatts of RAM you got in that keyboard?!" and "Doctor who?" like they have absolutely no idea what those things are, when, in actuality, they do. There's nothing wrong with knowing the proper terms for things and there's nothing wrong with knowing a TV show exists. So why fake it?
Like what you like. It's okay to DVR the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special so you can watch your team play a game. It's okay to spend all day tuning up your classic car's engine and then wash up before DMing your D&D night. People are interesting as all hell and we're all really different. We don't fit into neat little packages. And that's awesome.
It's silly to even lump yourself in a category anyway. No one can fully agree on what a "nerd" or a "geek" is. We all do supposedly "geeky" things. Fantasy football, doing the standard to metric conversion in your head to find the right socket for your wrench, buying distressed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle T-shirts from Target, these things seem "nerdy" to people, but it's stuff pretty much everyone does. It doesn't matter. Watch the Washington Wizards wearing your Harry Potter robe. Ain't nobody gonna stop you!
Look, sports is some super nerdy stuff. Stats on stats on stats. They've got stats on the longest pass by a quarterback thrown with his non-dominant hand to a receiver whose dominant hand is the non-dominant hand of the quarterback (probably). Plays are carefully calculated using symbols on a chalkboard (or whiteboard or even ::gasp:: computer!) using stats of the team's players and how they match up to the opposing team's players. And guess what? The fans who are arguably the BIGGEST fans? They COSPLAY at every single game. There are fans for teams who are known nationally because of their costumes they meticulously painted and sewed together to express how much they like a thing. Sporting events are basically weekly Cons for sports fans.
Photo credit: Canal Street Chronicles
In nature, (bear with me) animals of a certain species are known to behave a certain way. However, it's quite often that a subset of that species begins to do something new or different. Because they are still a part of that species, it is then safe to say that that species does that new thing. For example, let's say that (this is not true, necessarily) cats hate water. Putting a cat in water, generally speaking, will result in it freaking out and probably clawing you to death. However, there are groups of cats that actually enjoy being in the water. Because these cats like water, one cannot say, definitively, that "Cats do not like water." This is untrue because it is not a tautology, that is, it is not always true all the time. However, those water-loving cats are still cats and still categorized as cats, their fondness of water notwithstanding. Therefore, we must agree that if some "geeks" like sports, they are not automatically not-geeks, and if non-geeks like watching anime, they are not automatically geeky. We can take this further to say that if some "geeks" like sports, then liking sports can be geeky, since some "geeks" do it. We can take this further still by saying that liking sports and other "non-geeky" things is neither geeky nor not geeky, and therefore liking things like science and computers and reading books which are typically considered "geeky" are also neither "geeky" nor not geeky.
Things are things; hobbies are hobbies; people are people. Call yourself a geek or a nerd if you'd like -- there's nothing wrong with it. Or don't, there's nothing wrong with that either. So, if you're into sports, let it be known. Or don't. Whatever. But nothing and no one should ever make you uncomfortable for liking something. That truth stands for every aspect of your life.