Sport is different from the other ways we entertain ourselves- like music, literature, film- in a very real way. All those other things are art, and art at its truest level is meant to take us forward or backward or somewhere else deep within our own experiences. Whether we're going through something terrible or something wonderful, we use art to dwell or savor, to reflect, to think, to wallow, to grow, to work through things, to cry, to feel, to pray.
Sport is not that. It’s an escape from reality. You still cry and smile and laugh but it is about something else. It's not about you the personal being- it's about the game- no matter player or spectator- it's about something smaller, more simple, than yourself. Even through the times the mind boggles at calls made or rules invented, sports make more sense than our real lives ever could. There is order, winners, losers, a beginning, and an end. From the time a ball is served, kicked off, tossed up, or pitched you've checked your real self at the door. You're someone else now.
I used I think of Liz the Razorback fan as essentially who I am, but I was wrong. That is only the alternate me that I use. I am a college football fan, an SEC fanatic, and a passionate Razorback but all of that is merely a footnote on the person I really am. It's the me l choose to be most of the fall, but it's not who I am. I choose it because it's easier than being a scared 22 year old who feels alone most of the time and has no idea where her life is going and worries constantly about her recently widowered father and her little sister. You see, I'd much rather be a football fan. I by no means think sport is free of emotion—sport is mostly emotion (just ask that 10-year old Alabama fan weeping earlier today). But this emotion is about something that's not you. When the Hogs lose, it's actually nice to cry about that. I'm sick of crying about this.
The ability to love/hate/care deeply about something entirely separate from the reality of our own lives is what makes being sports fans unique. Art is good for the soul. To dwell or savor is necessary and often even enjoyable. But sport does something else: it distracts, entertains, and occupies a mind that is trained to think mostly of itself. Compared to the great triumphs and tragedies of our real lives, sports are, well, like playing games.