What’s Up With My NBA Love?

There is a scene in an episode of The Big Bang Theory, in which resident nerd Leonard Hofstadter is trying to win points with his girlfriend by pretending to care about sports. It’s comical precisely because he is so out of his element…I can relate to the scene all too well. So, what’s up with my newfound interest in professional basketball? I intend, in this post, to explain why I am watching the NBA and how it’s helping me.

Those who know me have been looking on lately with a sense of bewilderment. To say that I am not a sports fan would be an understatement. I was once reading a men’s magazine and saw an article about some professional baseball player named Bryce Harper. I thought that I would quickly scan the article to try to impress my friends with some baseball insight. As I scanned I saw the word “pitcher” and assumed that Bryce Harper was a pitcher. He isn’t a pitcher, and my friends ruthlessly, and rightly, mocked me for my blunder. I don’t watch sports. I don’t care about sports.

At the end of last year, however, I was going through what seemed like another tough emotional season. I was discouraged, fatigued, and in a general funk. I was struggling to figure out how to work myself out of this state and so, as all Christians should, I sought some counsel from godly, wiser people. I was expecting a stern rebuke, some good Scriptural truth, and prayer support, but what I got was very different. “You need a hobby that is unrelated to work.” This was a strange thing to say, after all, I have hobbies: I read books. But, as was pointed out to me, nearly all my reading is related to work. I read books on theology and ministry. I am engulfed in deep intellectual work often throughout my day and then, for fun, I was reading theology, psychology, and philosophy in the evening. My wise friend pointed out that I was not giving my brain a rest, and I was not creating enough distance between myself and the stressful elements of my work. “You need a hobby that is unrelated to work.”

That sounded good but I honestly didn’t know what to do. I don’t really have a lot of hobbies. The follow-up advice was stranger, I though, than the initial counsel: why not try getting into sports. SPORTS?! I had developed a mild level interest in professional basketball in high school, an attempt to try to connect with my dad (who loved sports). But that interest quickly faded and since then I had not taken a real interest in sports in over 15 years! Why sports? Well there were a few reasons given to me:

  1. It’s good entertainment that allows you to shut off your brain – watching sports doesn’t require me to go into to deep analysis. Now for some it may, but it doesn’t for me. It’s simply a game to watch and the games can be fun. There is often a lot of action, some built-in drama, and some entertaining displays of athleticism.
  2. It’s a hobby you can share with others – Many hobbies are designed to be done alone. But when you’re in a state of discouragement you don’t need more isolation, you need community and camaraderie. Sports naturally draw us into community, into discussions, and mutual enjoyment.
  3.  It comes with long but definite schedules – While most sports have a rather long and rigorous schedule it is not a year-round activity. So, basketball has 82 games over the course of a season, plus a post-season, and then it takes a break. So while it keeps me engaged for a good amount of time it has a limit and an end date. It’s a not a hobby that will consume all 365 days of the year and countless hours in those days.

So, I chose to take up professional basketball and try to gain some interest in the game and the teams.

At first, it wasn’t easy for me. For starters, there are only a few games on in a week and they are often on while I am doing other things. I found myself trying to schedule my day around NBA on TNT, which wasn’t working and was mostly frustrating. So, I decided to purchase something called a “league pass,” which allows me to watch any game I want on my own schedule. This was a hard sell at first, because I am both cheap and disinterested in sports, but the League pass actually worked in my favor. Not only could I schedule when to watch games but because I had invested money into this hobby I was feeling a lot more obligated to watch the games. As it turns out, persistence has paid off. I am actually really enjoying the NBA.

I love the games. I am learning the names of players, and the stats on teams. I kind of care about who gets into the playoffs and what matchups are interesting to watch. I find myself talking with friends about games and players and off the court drama (sports apparently have their own crazy storylines happening behind the scenes all the time). Some of the guys on the pastoral staff even took me to my first ever professional basketball game, which was awesome!

So, what has watching NBA games done for me? Well, primarily it has given me another outlet in which to devote my attention. This outlet requires very little of me and is purely entertaining. In that sense, it’s given me a chance to unwind and relax. It’s also provided some innocent fun. Most interestingly, it’s given me a lot to talk about with people and new ways of connecting with friends. True sports fans can all say, “Duh,” but I have been pleasantly surprised.

I am interested to see if my interest level stays once the post-season has come and gone. Will I be able to renew my NBA love into next season? I don’t know, but right now I am enjoying myself. So, I don’t think I would call myself a sports fan, not really. But I am learning to love the NBA and it’s proving to be helpful to my life.

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