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[I]f you're the sort of puritan who believes in that kind of monomaniacal infidelity to a sport,...

[I]f you're the sort of puritan who believes in that kind of monomaniacal infidelity to a sport, then sure. But that assumes one kind of sports fan. A doting, faithful fan whose eggs of loyalty lie in one basket, a basket that in the case of Will [Leitch] bears the logo of the St. Louis Cardinals. Your loves are trademarked, and every second away from them is a moment of longing abandon looking back toward them. Good for you. I have my own faith, too: Florida football. Unfortunately, she's only around five months of the year at best, and a man like any man has serious needs. For seven months these eyes wander in search of spectacle, especially heart-stopping, violent, and often dangerous spectacle. Thus the appeal of the Olympics, and especially the World Cup—the stunning Brazilian in the short skirt that almost gets us fired every four years—which forces us to abandon home, family, and common sense in the name of soccer and incoherent international hullabaloo. The same applies to MMA, or the Triple Crown, or to March Madness, the NBA playoffs, or to any ridiculousness that catches the eye and can reasonably be called sport. Which is why I'll be the one watching men betting on the first raindrop down the windowpane on ESPN 17 in ten years in April. For me, fandom can be ducking your head in every four years, because while life is not long it is certainly very wide, and covering that span is worth the effort.

Like pretty much everyone else who is acquainted with him, I like Orson Swindle Spencer Hall. One of the things I like about him is the fact that he, like Matt Hinton and Brian Cook, articulates effectively positions with which I disagree, which I respect because it helps me to understand and appreciate that which I otherwise would dismiss out of hand as simply wrong. This is a classic example of that phenomenon, which is crystallized in Spencer's use of the phrase "while life is not long it is certainly very wide," which absolutely sums up the distinction for me. William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway both were innovative authors and Nobel Prize-winning novelists who lived life on their own terms, but their writing styles could not have been more different because their lifestyles could not have been more different. Faulkner traveled the world and did what Southern writers tend to do, two guys whose birth certificates read "Thomas Wolfe" notwithstanding: he settled in, put down roots in or near a place to which he had longstanding family ties, and wrote about where he was. Hemingway, by contrast, went everywhere and wrote about everything he saw in the great big wide world, doing so with a level of effectiveness that allowed him (as P.J. O'Rourke put it) to romanticize Spaniards teasing farm animals. While I have never discussed literature with the man, I'd be willing to bet a fairly good-sized sum of money that Spencer Hall prefers Hemingway to Faulkner and no one who has ever been in my living room has any doubt that my preference is for Faulkner over Hemingway. Faulkner, you see, was all about depth, about knowing one place intimately. Hemingway, by contrast, was all about breadth, about experiencing as much as possible. Both approaches have their merits, and each has its pitfalls---the risk of depth is narrowness; the risk of breadth is shallowness---but we define by our choices the risks we are willing to run. If asked to complete the phrase "while life is not long it is certainly very _____," I would have filled in the blank with "deep," not "wide," and therein lies the difference. I don't intend to watch one minute of the Olympics, and the next soccer match I watch that does not include among the contestants a blood relative of mine of elementary-school age will be the first one, but I will spend Friday nights following women's gymnastics meets on the computer because those women represent the University of Georgia. Spencer cares about sports broadly, I care about Bulldog athletics deeply, and, while he is capable of depth and I am capable of breadth, each of us knows where he falls when push comes to shove. The fox knows many things. The hedgehog knows one big thing. Vive la difference.
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