Illustration by Denis Shifrin
“You're joking. . . you go to football games? ” Pure amazement in the questioner's voice or is it unmasked horror? This isn't a question but a statement that defies any explanation. It is posed, in open-mouthed astonishment, after I mention that I attended a match instead of going to a museum, reading Proust in the original, or seeing a foreign-language movie. By the way, I have indulged in all three, but so what . . . And that's what I say, “So what?” My partner in this dialogue hesitates and then asks in a perplexed voice, “Why?”
I engender this response with a boring regularity, not because I am a senior citizen but because I am female and a senior citizen. So, why do I adore watching and/or attending sports events? Oh, wait a second – not all sports events. I couldn't care less about curling (which resembles the motions I make when cleaning my apartment), cricket and bowls (didn't grow up in the Commonwealth), baseball (slow as poured molasses), American football (massive hooded and padded physiques being beaten to the ground), and ice-hockey (can't see the damned puck). But I truly love football (what the Yanks call soccer), basketball, track and field, ice-skating competitions and ski-jumping. Okay, that's it, more or less. Why?
I love theater, dance and films and there is drama and physical beauty a thousand-fold in sports. The lift, the throw, the leap – just look at that ancient sculpted Discus Thrower! Then there's the drama of the underdog, the unexpected victory, or the loss at the 90th minute when a goal is tragically not scored. Football players, “the beautiful game" as it has been called, seem to me like choreographed dancers (when they are playing well!) crossing and re-crossing a velvet green stage. The ultimate test of mental power is surely a tennis match – the audience, heads moving in unison side to side, the grunts of the players, the snap of the racquet – the rest of the world disappears as I lose myself in the players' burning desire to win.
When a match, or a game, or a marathon race has mediocre competitors, I am willing to pay the price of a ticket in the grandstand or time wasted opposite my television set just for that next chance to hold my breath, scream out in pain and disappointment, or yell in triumph at the victory. I am the hooter, the howler, the shouter, the exhausted, the ultimate spectator and proud of it.
■Pnina Moed Kass is the author of the Hebrew BERALE books.
Talking of games, here’s a new take on an indoor one . . .
THEY’RE certainly keen on playing Mah Jongg in Modiin. So much so that Chanukah was celebrated with appropriate Chanukiahs!
Modiin Mah Jongg Mavens Nechama Namal, Rita Katz, Lori Abrams and Cynthia Barmor