Why Don’t Sports Fanatics Know They’re Geeks?

News flash: There's no difference between D&D and fantasy sports except that one allows you to flay ogres and the other is subject to rain delays.


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I’ve never been the type to keep my fandoms a secret. Whether it’s comics or other collecting, I wear my interests on my sleeves (literally: my closet runneth over with superhero tees). With that, I’ve experienced high highs (getting to write Batman and Buck Rogers comics) and low lows (getting derided for liking comics, especially when I was younger).

On the latter, it’s no secret that the halls of Popular Culture have rung for years with the sounds of the ongoing battle between two seemingly opposing forces: nerds and jocks. It’s been a running thread in media for decades, from Revenge of the Nerds to the most recent season of Stranger Things. One reason the theme resonates is because it does reflect a basic culture clash. But it also brings up a salient question: Why don’t sports fans know they’re geeks?

That clash is something I’ve experienced firsthand and seen in many permutations.

Quite frequently, pursuits that have been lumped in the “geek” category (comic books, role-playing games, certain types of collecting) are ridiculed by everyone from authority figures to academics (my fifth-grade teacher was particularly belittling about it, and that sting lasts). And in American culture, supposedly nerdy interests can really get disparaged by sports fans.

Why, for example, is it socially acceptable to adorn your office with team pennants, framed posters of stadiums, and autographed baseballs, but the guy with a Star Wars poster and an autographed photo of Stan Lee is the weirdo? Why do sports fans get to address a team’s victory as “we” (as in “We beat the Lakers last night”) while someone animatedly discussing last night’s Rings of Power is the strange one?

Two egregious versions of this double standard are the “Office NCAA Tournament Bracket” and fantasy sports. Not only is it okay in many office environments to devote company resources to solicit people to submit their brackets, copy brackets, update brackets, post brackets in the breakroom, and run contests with cash prizes, it’s often tacitly, or even overtly, endorsed by management. And declining to participate carries a social stigma. Similarly, an office-based fantasy sports league generates discussions about rosters, trades, performance, and standings that are passively accepted, but a couple of guys talking about their weekend Dungeons & Dragons campaign are “wasting work time.” News flash: There’s no difference between D&D and fantasy sports except that one allows you to flay ogres and the other is subject to rain delays.

I also find it hilarious that wearing a medieval helmet or heroic tights for conventions is seen as outlier behavior, while taking off your shirt and painting yourself blue to stand in the freezing cold in an outdoor stadium is just another Sunday. You’ll rarely, if ever, find a sanctioned Cosplay Day at work, but the number of schools and offices that have Jersey Days or Team Days is countless. Why is dressing like your favorite quarterback fine, but dressing up as your favorite video game character one step too far?

The point is this: Everyone should get to like what they like. Sports are just another form of geekery. Whether you show up to cheer for the Colts or the Avengers, it’s all okay. When we all accept that everybody has their own thing, everybody wins.


This article appears in the January/February 2023 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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