Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A question about men and sports

This is something that impresses me, confounds me, and annoys me.

I have noticed something about men who are sports fans. Men who don't follow sports don't count. But a guy who is totally into sports, whether it's one sport or many, seems to have this extra space in his brain for an endless amount of stats. Maybe this is the space women use to know how to do laundry or wash dishes. Maybe this is the space women use to place some kind of importance on personal hygiene, like taking regular showers and brushing our hair when we get out of bed in the morning. Maybe this is the space women use for common sense. It's a scientific mystery.

But here it is: without fail, a male sports fan seems to be able to spit out at a moment's notice the batting average and on base percentage of his favorite player. Not only that, he can tell you how many times his favorite team has come behind to win this season, how many players they've left stranded, how many games they've won when leading in the eighth inning, and every pitcher's ERA. Not only that, but they can give you these same stats on not just their favorite players and teams, but on their opponents as well. Not only that, but they can give you all these stats for players and teams from 30 years ago. And they look at you as if you have two heads when you say that not only do you not know who won the Cy Young Award for the National League in 1969, but unless he's putting that award to good use by pitching your team into the World Series this year, you couldn't care less who the winner was (Tom Seaver for the NY Mets, by the way, which I had to look up).

As someone who knows Jason Giambi is a power hitter but couldn't tell you his batting average this season, and as someone who knows that Goose Gossage made it into the baseball Hall of Fame this year but couldn't tell you why beyond the fact that he was a pitcher, I do find this ability of male sports fans impressive. But at the same time, I can't help but think that if they channeled all this collective brain space and power into something useful and productive, that the human race might have already cured cancer and achieved world peace.

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