Since I withdrew, game-worn, from full-time sportswriting in 2007, the question I've gotten most is: "Do you miss sports?" I wonder if these same people ask retired weathermen if they miss weather, or ex-food critics if they miss food, or recovering nudists if they miss nudity.
Because missing sports is not an option. I couldn't miss them if I tried. And I have tried. But sports, it turns out, are always there. Even when I think they're not, they're present -- silent and odorless and invisible but emphatically present, like radon gas.
Sports were in the pauses on the other end of the phone when I spoke to my Dad in Minnesota one late-summer night while he watched the Twins in his armchair. We had a long conversation punctuated by even longer silences, and only after I hung up in Connecticut did I see on the ticker that the Twins' pitcher was carrying a perfect game into the ninth inning. I called back. "We spoke for a full hour and you never thought to mention that
Cloistering myself to write a novel, I tried to miss sports, to make them go away. ("Miss it! Miss it!" my conscience told me, impersonating D'Annunzio in
I was inhaling secondhand sports. When one of my brothers had a heart attack on the third hole of a Florida golf course, it had nothing to do with sports, really, until I learned that he had not merely finished out the hole: He had
This is the best illustration I know of Minnesota Nice, the courtesy and self-effacement common to natives of the Gopher State. But it's also testament to the motivational powers of breaking 90. Which my brother would have done, he assures me, if not for "the two bad holes when I was having a heart attack."
Sports are always there. When I fled the country, sports hunted me down. A short visit to London necessitated a trip to Emirates Stadium, to sit in the locker of
And so sports have proven unshakeable. Trying to leave sports is like trying to leave the mafia. Only worse, because at least death gets you out of the mafia. Not so with sports. When my Uncle
If death gives us no respite from sports, what chance do I have of avoiding them on Earth? In 2008, I attended the wake of Manchester (Conn.)
If sports, like death, are inevitable, then I've learned to happily submit, to succumb, to say uncle. Uncle John, to be specific, buried with his hoop tickets, his Hudy Delight and a copy of the
In an age when the Internet has given everyone a creative outlet -- even those bereft of a creative inlet -- I'm lucky that sports remain a wellspring, now and apparently forever. There's some comfort in knowing that. When the bony finger of Death taps us on the shoulder, it will be sheathed in the foam finger of Sports, softening the blow.