The Sensitive Dude’s Guide to Sports

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About Matthew Salesses

Matthew Salesses was adopted from Korea at age two and lives in Boston with his wife, baby, and cats. He has written for The New York Times Motherlode blog, NPR, Hyphen, The Rumpus, and other venues. His new book is I'm Not Saying, I'm Just Saying. See more at his eponymous website. Contact him via email or @salesses.


  1. As a fellow Boston fan, I liked this. Because like you, I often flit between my friends who love sports and my nerdy journalist buddies who think I’m wasting my time on a mindless game.

    I do have to add to your categories of fans though:

    8) The Poseur: This guy is probably not from Boston, yet learned everything he could about them upon moving here and now likes to offer his “expert” take on things whenever he gets the chance. Although his stats are correct, you know he’s just spitting back everything he’s read in Dan Shaughnessy’s column and watched on ESPN. This guy is obnoxious.

    9) The Generational Die Hard: This guy is a real fan. The truest of fans. The team was passed down through generations of his family and he’s been going since he was a kid. He’s not obnoxious like the Poseur and he’s not as ostentatious as the Jersey-Wearing Guy. But he’s always there, year in and year out through thick and thin. The complete opposite of the post-2004 Red Sox fan. And yes, he cares a little too much about the outcome of events and is way too invested in the team for his own good. But that’s not a bad thing because it is all about loyalty and passion.

    To be honest, I’m a little of each category. Sometimes I do want to get away from my wife and escape for awhile. And I would NEVER bring my wife with me to a truly crucial sporting event. Because she doesn’t understand why I get so worked up. And in that moment, the last thing you want to do is explain everything to someone who, in the end, doesn’t give a shit.

  2. paul kidwell says:

    I enjoyed your peice, Mathew. I am an ex-college athlete (basketball) who played just about every sport as a kid, teen and young adult – with the exception of curling. When I was young, participating in sports defined me more than anything; and yet, I was not much of a fan. Not sure why, but watching others play games didn’t interest me much. In fact, I watched my first Super Bowl when the Patriots lost to the Bears in 1990-something. Of course, being the father of an 18 year-old, statristic-quoting boy has changed all that and sometimes when he talks sports with me I feel as if my ears are going to bleed, such is the level of passion coming from this young man who worships all Boston sports. I have no choice, but to join him in front of the TV or at a local ball park to watch the moves of his heroes. Of course, that will change when he leaves for college and I will go back to saving damsels.

    DaddyFiles: Every once in a while my wife joins us at one of the games. Try explaining the nuances of the Infield Fly Rule, squeeze bunt, etc. to a woman who was born in Shanghai.

  3. Will someone please explain to me why ALL guys have to be sports fans. Why is it that sports are used as a test of “masculinity,” as if MORAL courage counts for nothing? Of course, if a guy has no interest in sports, his masculinity will automatically be called into question. Since the popular culture is saturated with sports, nonathletic boys are likely to be bullied simply for having no interest in sports. What good does that do? What is the justification for that? I’m not putting down people who enjoy sports. I simply object to the coercive aspects of what is called the “jock culture.” (Just one example of that is forcing nonathletic boys to participate in competitive team games in mandatory P.E., which historically offered no fitness programs at all for the nonathletic students.) There seems to be no room for any sane discussion about it.

  4. To me, the sports page was the least ambiguous part of the newspaper. As an LA kid, I liked looking at the Times sports section and seeing a Dodgers or Lakers win, right there in black and white. Or occasionally a Kings win, or the Angels, or going way back, a Rams win. Or for the connoisseur, a Raiders win. (I don’t buy the Clippers hype – they are a fun team but winning has never been Donald Sterling’s thing. Sorry.)

    Anyway, I would add a few types or subtypes of fan:

    The Front Office Boy: He’s the kind of guy that doesn’t really identify with the players. He’s all about management. If he’s older, he was deep into Rotisserie baseball. Nowadays it’s all computerized fantasy leagues. He understands what happened as a result of every pro sports labor dispute and is a staunch supporter of a BCS playoff system because it’s more efficient. Has seen “Moneyball” five times. Has favorite GMs where other fans cheer for that bench player that always seems to come through in a pinch and fire up the crowd.

    The Harry Edwards Professor of the Sociology of Sport: The guy that views everything sports through a social science lens. Pete Rose. Mike Tyson. The Decision. PEDs. Absolutely hates the NCAA because it exploits young athletes. You’ll find that when pressed he actually knows and cares a lot about what actually happens between the lines, on the court, etc. He probably hates The Front Office Boy but might find some common ground in the nostalgia line.


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