SPORTS ARE STUPID
LINK TO PUBLICATION SITE:
March 21, 2016
“They need to fire Mattingly,” my mom muttered angrily in Korean, “I’d be a better manager than him.” Her voice sounded grainy over the phone.
“He’s going to ruin the Dodgers. Why is he putting Pederson in when we’ve got Hernandez, or Van Slyke, or even Puig?!” I responded, as I waited impatiently for the Dodgers vs Giants game to load on my laptop. I rolled my eyes and wondered why, for all the money I paid to live in the college dorms, the wifi was so spotty.
“Who’s pitching tonight?” my mom asked.
She stifled a laugh and said, “Well, we’re fucked.” I love it when my mom swears in Korean.
2,980 miles away at home, I knew that my mom, dad, and brother were sitting around the living room preparing to watch the game, like we used to every night there was one playing. The four of us sat through all nine innings of the game that night, and I felt like I was there with them.
The Choi family is a Dodgers family. We’re a Lakers family. We’re a Kings family. I suppose it’s safe to say that sports are important to us.
So when a group of college students gathered around next to me at a cafe in downtown Boston and complained about how intellectually numbing sports were, about the lack of relevance sports had to humanity, I simply could not relate. They rambled on about how sports were idiotic and, therefore, anybody who watched sports was undoubtedly an idiot.
My parents immigrated from South Korea in their mid-20s and 25 years later, they are still in the demanding process of perfecting their English. They own a successful painting and construction business in southern California. Starting from as early as third grade, I became my parents’ personal google translate. Translating from Korean to English, then English to Korean quickly became a part of my every day life. And I hated it.
I began with translating simple words on labeled canned goods at the grocery store to translating complicated emails from prospective business clients. As I grew older, it became somewhat of my duty to file the necessary federal paperwork for the family company, make phone calls to insurance agencies to verify liability statements, apply for county permits that approved the painting of private properties etc.
I responded to jury duty letters on behalf of my parents and extensively explained that the lacking nature of my father’s English should excuse him from being summoned. For a while, it seemed that I wasn’t a daughter to my parents, I was a secretary. It felt like every waking moment I spent with them, I was working.
Because of this, I dreaded going to the movie theaters with my parents. What others considered to be a leisurely activity, just meant more work for me. I much rather preferred staying at home to watch an Indiana Jones DVD with Korean subtitles. That way, I wouldn’t have to awkwardly translate everything happening on the screen first to my dad on the left, then again to my mom on the right. Once, during Avatar, my dad leaned over and asked me, “Why is that man blue all of a sudden?”
Sometimes, watching television was just as draining, if not more. When watching the National Geographic channel, I would have to explain why the lioness was running, and what she was running from. When watching the news, I felt obligated to explain why Nancy Grace was yelling this time.
The thing about sports is that it serves as a common ground. RBI’s (runs batted in) and the number of rebounds acquired speak for themselves. For once, there’s no need for me to be a translator. There’s nothing my parents need to be translated. That’s why we love sports so much. Our family knows all of the players by heart: by the way they swing, dribble, and skate. My dad and I could talk about Chris Coghlan’s knee-shattering slide into Jung Ho Kang for hours.
When we’re watching the Dodgers, language barriers don’t exist. For a moment, business emails my dad needs to respond to, client voicemails my mom needs to check, algebra homework my brother has to do and Literature essays I need to write don’t matter. The four of us gather in the living room. We argue back and forth in Konglish, an odd mixture of Korean and English, about who deserves the National League Cy Young Award for MLB’s best regular season pitcher this year: Zack Greinke or Clayton Kershaw. I don’t have to translate anything, because sports serve as a universal and unifying language.
So there’s your relevance to humanity.