For many years, watching sports was my escape and my hobby. Each season brought a new sport and new excitement. Being from Maryland, Baltimore sports teams are my home teams. I went to Virginia Tech and Johns Hopkins, and along with the University of Maryland I followed three college teams. Baseball and lacrosse in the spring and summer, football in the fall, and basketball in the winter. I traveled to watch NCAA Basketball Tournament games, NCAA Football games, NFL games, World Cup Soccer matches, and when I traveled for work, I would try to go to as many minor league baseball games as possible. I have had season tickets for the Ravens for approximately 25 years.
Sporting events were critical to my friendships and my entertainment. I invested time in fantasy sports and learned enough intricate statistical analysis to compile a team Bill James or Billy Beane, of Moneyball fame, would be proud of. I had spreadsheets and trophies and bragging rights. My first separation from my sports obsession was the birth of my children. I still attended games and occasionally traveled for events after they were born, but as my children got older and they had events of their own, I started to watch and attend college and professional games less and less.
Approximately 10 years ago, I started my fly fishing journey. Since I began learning and growing in affinity for angling my interest in viewing sports has diminished. It is still there, I can hang in most sports worship conversations, but the memories are further in the past, the statistics are getting fuzzier, and the new players in many sports are strangers. All-stars are slowly being replaced by fly tiers and fly anglers in my starstruck moments.
This weekend I was fortunate to go to the Fly Fishing Show in Edison, New Jersey. I spent time with Gary Borger, with decades of experience, storytelling, humility, and knowledge. Sitting with Josh Miller, I was in awe of his positive energy and unbridled enthusiasm. Gary and Josh are separated by decades in age but are connected in their love of fishing and their joy in sharing what they have learned with everyone who expresses interest.
The Show also presented the opportunity for me to meet Scott Major, creator of the PA Woods N Water YouTube page. His enthusiasm and knowledge comes through in each video he posts and I have learned a tremendous amount from him. Greeting me with a huge smile while wearing a Fly Fish Mend sweatshirt made my day and helped me with growing my confidence for signing books at the Author’s booth later in the afternoon. His support and encouragement are uplifting.
I saw presentations from Tim Flagler and George Daniel, where they instructed, entertained, and counseled dozens of anglers. Sharing their knowledge appeared to drive them as much as being on the river itself. Leaving the show, I was saturated with ideas, excitement, and energy for future fishing adventures.
Today I went to the AFC Championship Game and watched the Ravens unravel against the inevitable Kansas City Chiefs. A terrific season devolved into turnovers and penalties on a rainy misty afternoon. In the stands, excitement was drained from the fans with the loss of hope and the addition of alcohol. A man in the row in front of me behaved as poorly as anyone I have ever witnessed, with a depraved vulgarity that would have turned Howard Stern’s stomach. He nearly incited three fights and I thought at least a dozen times that it would be incredibly satisfying to punch him in the face. Thankfully he was removed from the stadium and hopefully he will have to forfeit his season tickets. But it made for a miserable experience for many folks sitting around me. My opinion that a portion of NFL Football fans are among the most ignorant segment of society received another data point. I drove home relieved to be in traffic after the strain of the game.
Had the Ravens played better or won, maybe it would have been a better time for me. I recognize I was shaded by the outcome. But on the drive home, there was no infusion of ideas or excitement. There was no admiration for new people I met. No people joyfully passing along knowledge. Cans of beer were thrown when a call didn’t go the fans’ way, cursing was constant at every penalty flag and good play from the Chiefs. I appreciate my time with my friend Kevin, but the rest of the atmosphere is not uplifting, it is alarming, even with a victory. Maybe next time, I’ll choose fishing over football.