Geeks and Jocks have more in common than you may think
I’ve been a geek for most of my life, but I’ve been a sports fan for far longer. Many of the earliest memories I have come from watching superhero cartoons on TV as well as watching some of the most important NBA games in the history of the game. I love seeing what happens with the Utah Jazz almost as much as I like catching the next season of “Mad Men” or “Dexter”. I anticipate each coming season the same way another would welcome Comic Con or E3.
Recently it was brought to my attention by a tweet made by @punknews that featured a story from the New York Times . In the tweet, the writer asked if Heterosexual sports players can stand up for Homosexual rights why does the punk community use so many gay slurs? This got me thinking about our own community and how many times we just throw out slurs or insults without thinking about it. There isn’t much difference between any of these communities. One likes punk music, the other sports, and even another that is more interested in comic books than just about anything else in the world. Why is it that is seems like the one stereotypically least likely to take the first steps, is in fact doing that?
It is a touchy subject. It’s hard to weave yourself between two seemingly opposite worlds. There has always been a clash of the titans between geeks and jocks. There will always be situations that arise that will scream back to the absolute idiocy of high school politics. Maybe you’re at a bar or a game store and the stereotypical clique rolls in and tries to ruin each others’ day. I believe these to be the exceptions rather than the rules. Yes, there are going to be drunken meat heads who want to do nothing more than relive the glory days of High School or College by preying on the weak. There are also going to be times when a typical “jock” asks a legitimate question about “The Avengers” and will receive the collective groaning and “are you serious?” looks from legions of followers of the pen and ink gospel.
It’s hard for me. The best memories I have growing up are the times my Dad took me to sporting events or played catch in the yard with me. We’d spend hours riding our bikes discovering new areas of our town or spend nights practicing free throws in the school gymnasium until I couldn’t lift a ball anymore. We’d also sit and play role playing games on our computer or sit in my bedroom and play “Ninja Turtles” on the NES until our hands were blistered and we’d need to get some sugary refreshment. Being a geek and being a sports fan has been a part of my cultural background as much as I am interested in current events and high art. Basketball is the ultimate team strategy game played by GMs, coaches, and supremely athletic and talented people. It is a game of economy and politics if there ever was one. Sports are the ultimate drama. They pit not only human spirit and determination against all odds but it serves as the ultimate testament to the mystique of human life.
Geeks feel that because of their ineptitude at athletic games or their desire to not be particularly physical by nature, think that all sports are is just some barbaric ritual that is for the lowest common denominator in our society. Geeks would rather argue over hypothetical “what if” situations between meta humans than witness amazing feats of real life that real people are overcoming everyday. I’m a huge television geek. I follow between nine to twelve shows a season. I love watching the human spirit in an emotional and gripping sense. I want to watch these characters that I was introduced to grow and mature and reach an ultimate climax. In most forms of theatrical entertainment, and I’m being very broad in scope everywhere from the stage, the screen, the page, and the panel, characters overcome personal demons within themselves to overcome physical obstacles in their environments. We love watching the good guys barely scrape out a narrow victory from the men in the black hats. Sports works exactly the same way. You identify with an organization and while to an untrained or uncaring eye these can seem rather moot or pointless in nature, as a sports fan you grow attached to certain teams or players just like you become attached to certain genres or superheros. We have our LeBrons, Jeters, and Farves just as you have your Batmans, Wolverines, and Kirks.
I feel that sports fans get lumped into a larger category that cares more about beating helpless people up or raping women. I get offended by this stereotype. These characteristics run in all kinds of groups, geek, jock or otherwise. An asshole is an asshole regardless of what color hat he’s wearing. I can understand where a lot of people stand on the facet that generally, people who were jocks tended to be sports fans, and those jocks tended to pick on smaller weaker people when they were impressionable. Yes, everyone, everywhere at some point in their lives or another has had to deal with not only adversity but being a victim because of who you were. I feel for people who got picked on in high school. Fortunately, I was never picked on in the school I was in growing up. I wasn’t a jock, I was definitely in the “nerd or geek” category. I never blatantly saw “the jocks” pick on “the geeks” and maybe that is because I went to high school in the early 21st century and not the mid to late 20th century. I will say one thing however, I have never met a group of people with more sense of entitlement and passion than geeks. It is a double-edged sword however. You would think with all this general “in with the out crowd” mentality it would resonate to treating people with respect and dignity. I have found that it tends to be the opposite. I find that geeks feel more entitled to certain subjects because “they read/saw/played it first and everyone who comes after is either some “hipster” or “band wagoner”. I see it when I play certain games. You play online and if you aren’t there first day you get chastised because you aren’t as good or as well prepared as everyone else. You strike up a conversation about a movie based on a popular book series and because you’ve only seen the movies people will ramble on and on about how you are missing out because you didn’t invest the time or the effort into reading a stack of novels before entering a theater. It is unfortunate that many people who claim to embrace everyone equally, that they have a tinge of hatred for people who “get to the party late”.
Typical sports fans will not care when or how you became a fan of a particular sport or why you follow a specific team or player. They embrace you because you are part of a shared experience. Now, I’m not saying that all geeks are super closed minded or all sports fans are the most embraceable people in the world, just pointing out that sports brings a lot of people together then it is given credit for. It’s fine if you don’t like sports. You don’t have to. All I hope is that if you are ignorant about a subject you don’t understand put yourself in the shoes of someone else who doesn’t understand the things you find important and fascinating. Would you react harshly? Would you act matter-of-factly?
Robert Chesley is a geek of all natures and can be found at www.twitter.com/urzishra or here on our own WPR forums.