MUSINGS: Sports fans are nerds, too

By Jennifer Hearn
The Scene staff

Nerds are often characterized as unsightly, socially inept people with extremely high IQs. They seem to be obsessed with technology, science or history, and they are always studying. They also have hobbies that most people can’t get into, like comic books or cosplay.

Many TV nerds have been terrible dressers. Most notably, Steve Urkel was famous for his extremely high-waisted pants and suspenders. Screech from “Saved by the Bell” wore wild-colored outfits, and his hair was rarely styled. TV nerds usually wear glasses and have braces or terrible acne. They are such social outcasts that they can’t get dates, and they’re bullied in school by more popular students.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines a nerd as “a single-minded expert in a particular technical field.” That makes me wonder, aren’t sports fans nerds? No, they aren’t wearing pocket protectors or Coke-bottle glasses. But you may see them at football games in November, shirtless with their faces painted team colors.

At my high school, the “jocks” (athletes) were popular and well-liked. A few may have picked on the nerds. Most did not become professional athletes, but they carried their passion for sports to adulthood and are now sports nerds. We all know the chances of making it to the big leagues in a sport, so you can imagine just how many nerds are walking among us.

There are guys who have an ESPN app on their phones. They receive notifications every hour, telling them what is happening in the sports world, what player has been traded to what team or the score of a game that isn’t being televised. Then they come home and watch “Sports Center” for hours.

If someone had the NASA app (yes, it exists) so they could be updated on the Hubble Space Telescope’s findings hourly and then went home and watched live streams of the Mars Rover, he or she would be considered a nerd.

My boyfriend and I recently went to his friend’s house for a fight party. It was held in his “man cave.” Such rooms are common in homes today. They are usually in basements, where men can retreat, relax, watch sports or hold special man meetings.

What I found odd in this man cave was that it was decorated with nothing but Dallas Cowboys paraphernalia. The friend showed off autographed footballs and jerseys, posters and curtains. None of the other party-goers found this strange. But I couldn’t help but wonder, if this room had been decorated with “Star Trek” paraphernalia, would the guests have been OK with it?

For some reason, it is fine to be obsessed with sports in our society. It is perfectly normal to sit and discuss stats for hours or to hold social gatherings in homes, just to watch a single game. Nothing is wrong with having a fantasy football team, which is essentially a role-playing game like “Dungeons and Dragons.” But people who play “Dungeons and Dragons” are considered strange.

Irrational love for a sports team combined with irrational hate for another sports team is not unusual for most people. I don’t know much about baseball, but I know that I should never cheer for the Chicago Cubs because of their decades-long rivalry with the St. Louis Cardinals. During the most recent World Series, my father instructed me not to cheer for the Kansas City Royals because they “stole” the championship from the Cardinals in 1985. I guess some wounds take longer to heal than others.
Sports rivalries are widely accepted in this society. However, there has been a long debate over whether DC Comics is better than Marvel Comics. DC has the “Justice League” and Marvel has “The Avengers.” Aren’t they teams of superheroes? How are their fans different than two sports fanatics discussing which New York baseball team is better?

Again, being a single-minded expert in a technical field is the definition of a nerd. This includes being an expert in sports. Whether you can name the 100th digit in pi or every pitcher for the Cardinals past Bob Gibson, you are a nerd.