I want to be a woman who knows sports. I want to go to football games and know all the players, where they live, their salaries, their stats. I want to insert myself in men-talk, the world of facts and figures, history and strategy.
My hometown brags about her sports. We have the Cubs, the Bears, the White Sox, the Blackhawks and the Bulls. At Midwest Orthopedics in 2015, a year the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, the doctor said, “We do the Blackhawks, you know.”
I returned in 2016, the year the Cubs won the World Series and someone said, “They do the Cubs, you know.”
A friend who had her hip replaced said, “My doctor is the Bulls ortho.”
Another who had shoulder replacement, “My doctor fixed the White Sox pitcher.”
When I was a young professional, my office mate, Patrick, told me I’d never get another man if I didn’t know sports. Every Monday morning he’d grill me.
Patrick’s weekly quiz schooled me in teams, players, uniforms, stadiums and basic terminology. Osmosis had been my teacher until then. I played team sports as a kid and absorbed recurring words like touchdown, foul ball and goalie. My son, who learned to read looking at baseball scores in the back of the newspaper, played baseball, hockey and basketball. I wasn’t as fully engaged as other Little League mothers but I picked up tufts of jargon in the stands while rooting for his little body to get around the bases.
On a Sunday afternoon in early January 2019, I was on the #36 bus headed north to the movie theater to see “Vice” for the second time. Handsome, jovial cool cats at the Clark and Division bus stop grappled with grocery bags full of beer and pretzels. They were in mid conversation as they boarded:
“…a company game between Bears and Packers, then a guy bought the Bears for $50.”
“Cubs came after the fire. Always played Wrigley; Bears used to play Wrigley.”
After the fire? Was he referring to the 1871 Chicago fire?
One of the fans shouted out the words on the billboard as we passed the Weiner’s Circle: “It’s The End Of The World As You Know It. So Eat Hot Dogs!”
“Hope that’s not an omen!” shouted a passenger in the back and I realized the NFL wild-card round between the Bears and the underdog Eagles was about to kickoff.
After the movie I boarded the bus with a pack of jostling men who kept shouting Doink! and fuck Cody! I looked in my iPhone. The Bears lost due to an errant field goal by Cody Parkey. Doink! The boozy herd bobbed and weaved, nearly falling on those of us sitting in the front seats.
I fear I’ve forgotten most of what I learned from Patrick, since I’ve had no occasion to use the information. I want to be a woman who knows sports but life on the #36 bus confirms what I’ve always known—I don’t want a sports fan for a man.