Confessions of a Sportsaholic

Cristina, our exchange student from Madrid, told us years ago, “Your family is sports-obsessed.” It was the first time anyone had ever said that to me and I thought her remark was just an observation of the contrast between American and European culture, but the evidence says otherwise. When our kids were small we only allowed “educational television” for a maximum of one hour a day. We attempted to give them “balanced exposure” to activities. We required our children to play a musical instrument, we bought tickets to children’s symphonies and attended theater. Yet, one activity was always constant throughout: participating and watching sports. They enjoyed the physical activity and the competition and so did we.

As the kids got older we started increasing the allowable TV time if it was for sports viewing, rationalizing, “The kids will learn a lot about competition and teamwork.” We scheduled our family vacations around sports tournaments and seasons. We encouraged our kids to read the newspaper by starting with the sports section and they read books with male and female sports heroines. TV time expanded further as we ate dinner while watching Monday Night Football.

We eventually realized “balance” was not to be achieved, our family would not be culturally well rounded; we were “all in” when it came to athletics. We purchased season tickets to Washington Husky football and basketball games. Our two oldest children each became Sports Editor of their high school newspaper and our daughter wrote her college essays sprinkled with sports analogies. It is only in hindsight that I can see how the path unfolded with our family. As Steve Jobs said in his famous Stanford commencement speech, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”

It was fait accompli, our family was indeed sports-obsessed . We all virtually stand at attention when Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man is played. I dare anyone to listen to this and not get a tingle.

In the past month I attended author talks by Bizz Bissinger (Friday Night Lights) and Frank Deford of Sports Illustrated. This week I am playing in a tennis tournament. Hi, my name is Carol and I am a Sportsaholic.

One time, I opined about our obsession to my friend who was V.P. of marketing for a pro sports franchise. She said the appeal of sports is that it is “unscripted drama.” This rang true as I recalled how sports commentator Jim McKay used to introduce his television show, ABC’s Wide World of Sports: “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports…the thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat…the human drama of athletic competition…”

It really is the thrill of pushing a body to the emotional and physical brink with no predetermined outcome that gives sports junkies an adrenaline rush. Our family consumed a considerable amount of time in the last few weeks watching the Olympic trials. We watched hours of swimming and track and were even lucky enough to get tickets to attend the Olympic Diving trials held in Washington. I don’t know how we are going to get work done during the London Olympics since the advertising has been touting the ability to watch 24/7 which scares me and excites me. I know my family and I will be watching as much as possible, eagerly and without one trace of guilt. I can’t wait.

Carol Lewis Gullstad July 9, 2012


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