As you probably guessed if you read my What Hockey Taught Me About Story post earlier last year, I’m a sports fan. I love this time of year, not just because the long dark evenings are perfect for curling up with a good book (reading or writing one), but because it’s time for my two favourite sports: hockey and football. (Honesty compels me to admit that I’m watching a hockey game right now 🙂 )
I’ve never been much of a sports participant – I blame it on dismal eye-hand coordination and a lack of depth perception – but I enjoy cheering on the local teams and keeping track of the careers of my favourite players. Though I like sports in general, there are a number of them that, under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t give a second look (golf, I’m looking at you). Sometimes, however, there are special circumstances.
Last year around this time you would have found me watching a baseball game. On purpose. The local team was in the World Series, going for their third win in five years. Even as a non-fan it was exciting to watch those final games and wonder if they were going to succeed or not. Thousands packed the streets for the victory parade after the team won the pennant, both die-hard fans and those that were caught up in the excitement.
This past June, it was the local basketball team that took centre stage, going for their first championship win in 40 years. It was the main topic of conversation at work for weeks, and not just because one of the team’s point guards stars in an advertising campaign for my company. When the team won the streets were packed with fans who wanted to watch the victory parade and catch a glimpse of their favourite players. Even now, almost 5 months later, an event in my office building where fans could have their picture taken with the championship trophy (just the trophy, not the actual players) had people lined up for ages, team t-shirts and cameras in hand.
Last Saturday it was the Breeders’ Cup Classic horse race. I had no idea it was even horse-racing season, but I came across the race when channel-surfing for a movie. I stopped because the announcers were talking about American Pharoah – the triple-crown winning horse I mentioned in this post earlier this year. The race was going to be his final run before hanging up the silks and heading off to stud (a little over three years old and already time to retire). I couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement of the race, wondering how it would turn out and whether American Pharoah would be the first horse to win the Grand Slam of American racing (as if I even knew what that was before Saturday). He was a sentimental favourite and it was exciting to watch him fly around the track (he looked like he loved to run). When he won, his jockey took him on a long victory walk so the cheering fans could get a last look and snap photos, as if he was a movie star. As the announcer put it when American Pharoah crossed the finish line it was the “fairy tale ending to the career of a lifetime.”
So what do these examples all have in common? The answer is pretty simple: great stories. In each case there were appealing stories related to the sport. There were interesting characters, good conflict (only one participant/team could win) and a variety of related human (or equine) interest segments to tug at the heart-strings. The particular sports may not have been of much interest to me, but the stories behind each of them kept me engaged, watching, and wondering “what’s next?”
So, have you found yourself drawn to read or watch something that you would not typically be interested in just because there was a great story?