A Fan's Perfect Age
A few weeks ago I heard a fascinating panel discussion via the internet, with several distinguished sports pundits taking part. Included were sportscaster Bob Costas (my pick for the next Commissioner of Baseball), Bill James, the founder of Baseball’s Sabremetrics movement (which involves the detailed analysis of the Game’s many statistics), and a prolific sports writer from the Midwest, Joe Posnanski.
As the conversation meandered, Posnanski made the case that it was his opinion that ten years old is the very best age to be a fan of professional sports. Chances are the young fan has had a couple of years to learn who the players are, the layout of the league, the rules of the game, and the significance of his favorite team and player’s accomplishments, without having had the chance to become jaded by the adult realities of free agency, performance-enhancing drugs, or altercations involving legal authorities. Innocence is bliss.
At the age of ten the players are still gods, and there isn’t nearly as much information clogging a youngster’s hard drive to keep him from memorizing all of his favorite player’s accomplishments, if not the entire rosters of all the teams in the league.
I found Posnanski’s point valid. Ten years old (give or take a year or two) is about as good as it gets when it comes to being a fan of pro sports
As if to validate his point, a week or two later the Baseball Network played, in its entirety and for the first time ever, a replay of Game Seven of the memorable 1960 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the damn Yankees, which the Pirates won in spite of being outscored 55-27.
I was ten years old in 1960.
(It seems Bing Crosby was one of the owners of the Pirates back then. Feeling his presence would jinx the team, he took his family to Europe during the World Series. But he had the foresight to ask a friend to set up a movie camera in front of Bing’s TV set and the friend filmed the entire game. When Crosby returned to the States, he watched the ‘movie’ he had made, then stuck it on the shelf where it collected dust for nearly fifty years before being ‘discovered’ just recently.)
Readers of this space will know that I am, and have been for many years, an avid fan of High School sports, attending two or three events, on average, each week during the school year.
High School games afford me a chance to watch local kids strive to accomplish something great (often for the first time), in close proximity to the action, in company with other members of my community, and at a fraction of the cost and hassle of going to their professional equivalent.
Having found agreement with the Age Ten Theory for pro sports, it got me to wondering as to what is the best age to be a fan of High School sports.
And it occurs to me that my sixty years just might be the perfect age to be a HS sports fan.
Gone are the days of being the dad of a player and getting wrapped up in the day-to-day (sometime minute-to-minute) drama and angst that can come with an injury, a puzzling benching, or an 0-for-4 day at the plate.
I’m now better able to recognize that all the athletes I watch (regardless of which school they play for) are still in the unfinished-product stage of their lives; that their mistakes (on-and-off the field) are opportunities to learn from; and that they aren’t too many years away from being my peer, better off for the experiences they’ve had playing HS sports.
Instead I’m able to enjoy the games simply for what they are -- sport and entertainment -- that can, on the best of nights, transform into the very finest kind of athletic competition that becomes art.
Finally – something good about being sixty!
There’s no question about it.
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