What I learned in boating school is...

If you asked me to name the first things that come to mind when describing my childhood, I would tell you that they are the same things that I preoccupy myself with now: TV and Sports. The TV part is pretty straightforward. Watching my favorite shows used to be so automatic, I knew entire episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Spongebob Squarepants by heart. The sports part is a little less conventional. A highlight reel of my short-lived middle school football career would feature clips of my 7th grade self being annihilated by bigger kids in practice, warming the bench for most of the games, and ultimately quitting a little more than halfway through the season. By the end of the experience, I felt as though all I had really gained was a newfound sense of empathy for the victims of hard hits every weekend of football season. When I say that sports was such a large aspect of my adolescence, I’m talking more so about watching it.  

I follow baseball, basketball, and both footballs. Each has a special place in my heart. I remember discussing Shaq vs Kobe in summer camp, staying up to watch extra innings of world series baseball, and waking up early in the morning to watch the 2002 World Cup while actually in Korea. Nothing, however, can compare to my experiences with football. I imagine that I’ve felt every possible emotion in the spectrum from following college and professional football. As a fan of traditionally, uh, underperforming teams, I’ll admit that I’ve likely got a higher quantity of negative experiences than positive ones. I’ve never had the chance to witness one of my teams win it all in my entire life. I have, however, had the opportunity to watch as my team once got robbed of a bowl win because a receiver was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after saluting the crowd to celebrate making what was hands-down the biggest play he had ever made in his entire career. There are also plenty of times when I’ve had my heart broken by events that didn’t involve my team. I remember sitting in stunned silence when the Steelers beat Kurt Warner and the Cardinals in the dying moments of the game to put an end to a remarkable cinderalla run. I remember how disgusted I felt when I watched documentaries about the cash distribution discrepancies that are rampant in the business of college sports. Yet, like a bad drug I just can’t quit, I tune in every Saturday and Sunday to watch as grown men tackle their way to an early grave in front of millions of fans who could hardly care less about what these modern day gladiators actually have to go through.  

There’s this episode of Spongebob Squarepants where Spongebob had difficulty writing a 10-word essay about what he had learned in boating school. The joke is that Spongebob overlooked the Occam’s razor answer to a simple question (especially when one considers the fact that the first seven letters of the essay are supposed to be “what I learned in boating school is”). In an effort to avoid making the same mistake that a sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea made, I’ll try to provide the most basic, instinctual answer to the question of why I like football so much when it’s hurt me so often. What I learned in boating school is this: sometimes, things won’t work out and that’s ok. Whether it’s from an inherently flawed system or just an asshole who wants to ruin your day, fairytale endings aren’t going to happen for everyone. At least when the ball is in the air, there is an instant when you feel like anything can happen and you can stand back and take a second to admire the beauty that manifests itself in the way a football spirals through the air in a perfect curve. The pass won’t always be a completion, but there’s always another down to give it your best shot.  

 

Hi, I’m Algernon. I have opted to write about how watching sports influenced my mentality towards life. This decision was based on a personal observation I had about others who follow sports (including myself as well, though I’d like to think that at this point, it’s to a slightly lesser extent). I feel as though the status quo dictates that winning is everything. Those who lose are subjected to a stigma that ignores context and makes judgment binary. With this in mind, I wanted to write a sort of defense for those who are often reduced to a walking set of statistics and for the dreams that don’t always pan out.