Speedrunning is my Sportsball

I think I have mentioned before that I don’t really get sports. I can’t stress enough how much this is not for a lack of trying. I’ve tried playing sports, I’ve tried watching them, and frankly the biggest question is which of these two activities is more seemingly pointless to me. Thankfully, I have some friends who are not very judgemental, and every year when I find myself in the US when I inevitably get invited to a superbowl party, none of them seem to mind that I have brought a book.

I always go, but mostly for the food. I do love Superbowl food.

The first time I sports started to sink in was when ‘my side’1 lost the 2016 presidential election in the US. I am a largely an unemotional sort, and a life time of denial of things I have wanted had up till then rendered my immune to loss. But there was some cocktail of ingredients that worked pretty heavily against me – the confidence I had in Hilary winning, the skepticism that Trump had a snowball’s chance in hell, and the extent to which I was convinced that Trump was massively unqualified for the position of president. So I ended up watching the elections all day (I was abroad at the time) with an American roommate, passing a bottle of bootleg knockoff whiskey between the two of us, swigging at every Democratic failure. There is a Sportsball analogy here: it would be the equivalent of knowing your team had it in the bag, and then watching them fail to deliver at every turn.

But the difference here really makes a difference. Politics is something I consume out of obligation, and I hope to all the powers of the universe that no one can say the same thing about sports, although I am sure someone can.

So with that I had half the understanding of sports. But there was still something missing, and I think i finally got around to understanding it.

And the understanding came from Speedrunning.

Speedrunning, for the uninitiated, is the act of a person trying to finish a videogame at varying levels of completeness in as quick a time as possible. I hope a skeptical reader wonders what the correlation between this ans sports is, because I was not initially aware of it myself. I can’t, of course, watch any old speed run. I find that they don’t really make much sense in isolation. The ones that I enjoy watching are all the ones of games that I have formerly played, and that is the clue right there. You can only really be impressed with what the person is doing if you have a baseline for how difficult it is2. The fun of it all seems to be from watching people who are better at you at something do it extraordinarily well, and knowing that while you can do something like what they are doing, you cannot get to where they have reached. It isn’t about what you can do, it’s about what you wished you could do, if only you had dedicated yourself.

That might be the ultimate explanation for my lack of give-a-shit when it comes to sports. Its all foreign to me. I can’t do any percent of it, and I never cared to.

But at least I can say I get it now.


1 I have no idea whatsoever why I put ‘my side’ in quotes. Yes I voted for Hillary, and I did so happily and with enough conviction. However, I wrote that paragraph, walked away from the post for a week, and then found that the sentence felt wrong without it. I could go into a long diatribe into my not wanting to be pinned down by a political position, but this isn’t the post for that.

2 Well, not exactly, but I don’t want to render this post overly complicated. I think you can enjoy a speedrun of a game you’ve never played, if you’ve played games of that nature before. Not sure I could enjoy a Call of Duty speedrun, for example.

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