Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sports Nerds

A colleague of mine mentioned the other day that he plays fantasy football. I said that it was a nerdy thing to do, and he tried to argue with it. Now, I don't mean anything negative when I say "nerdy," but apparently people that are really into sports find it to be offensive. (I also don't mean anything negative about the person in question--he's a great guy.)

[Image taken from here.]

But the bottom line is that people that are really into sports have a lot in common with nerds.

I should point out that I don't think everyone who enjoys watching sports is a nerd, just like everyone who's seen Star Wars obviously isn't a nerd (otherwise I think 99.999% of the population would all be nerds).

The most obvious resemblance is due to fantasy football. This goes beyond the mere term "fantasy," and it's such a nerdy thing to do that it hardly needs explaining.

Fantasy football, it is argued, is somehow "real," whereas the things which concern traditional nerds, Warhammer 40,000 for instance, are apparently less than "real." The thing is, I'm not sure what resemblance an athletic competition has to real life. Neither one is real in the sense that it has any bearing on a person's day-to-day life--or on anyone's day-to-day life--and that to me is the defining difference between real and not real. Football is no more real than Babylon 5. Both are exhibitions for entertainment purposes, and the fact that one is entirely preplanned makes no difference.

The focus on statistics (both in and out of the fantasy football leagues) is incredibly nerdy, and I don't see how focusing on the statistics of, say, Peyton Manning, is any different from focusing on the statistics of a Timber Wolf BattleMech.

Trivia is also a huge source of resemblance between the two varieties of nerds. Look, I don't care who won the 1944 Rose Bowl anymore than I care which numbered episodes of Star Trek involved beings of pure energy.

ESPN (along with its offshoots) is probably the most thrashing indictment of any perceived difference between sports nerds and traditional nerds. They have an entire network, ESPN Classic, dedicated to the great athletic competitions of yesteryear. Sounds like people watching the original Star Trek series to me.

The nerdiest thing you'll find on the ESPN networks, though (aside from discussions of fantasy football), is the completely irrelevant arguments they make and then televise. Discussions of hypothetical situations abound: what would happen if Team A defeats Team B and Team C beats Team A? Wow! Wouldn't that be awesome! Or wait--who's better, the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers football team or the 2004 USC Trojans? Of course, it would also be really cool to see what would happen if Spawn and Batman were in the same comic. But wait a minute--there's actually a comic to see what would happen if Spawn and Batman were together, so, which one is more "real" now?

This is just a start, though. There are many other resemblances you could find, if you worked at it. And the only point I'm trying to make here is that all nerds are the same. Sports nerds, no matter how much they want to be, are no better than sci-fi nerds. There are, of course, many other varieties of nerds, and that is the subject of the following illustration, which is by no means all-inclusive (click to see larger):