TRITON TIMEOUT: Sports can’t mirror small concert intimacy, and that’s fine by me

Hi, I’m second-year sports editor Jack Dorfman. In this column, I’ll take a timeout from discussing specific UC San Diego coaches and student-athletes and instead tackle topics related to sports more broadly, whether at UCSD or within professional leagues.

There are a lot of different ways I spend my time and money. Even as a rabid consumer of sports, I am not all sports all the time; I value balance and moderation in all things. And so last Tuesday night, I spent $19 to go to a concert on campus at the Che Café. It wasn’t for a widely popular band, but my friend was a big fan. When I listened to the artist’s music online I enjoyed it, so I tagged along.

While the venue could’ve held over 100 people, even at its most packed, there were only about 50 people in the room. The band, a psych-rock group from the Philippines called Mellow Fellow, played from 7:30 p.m. to almost 10 p.m., taking a few short breaks in between.

 And even though the crowd was certainly not full of sports fans, sports did come up, specifically the NBA. Ralph Lawrence “Polo” Reyes, the performer, brought up LeBron James and his hatred of the Golden State Warriors during his set. Being the sports fanatic that I am, I spent the rest of the night wondering whether or not he was a basketball fan, and if he was, what team he supported.

 After the show, my friends and I got a chance to meet him because the show was so small. When we did, we all told him how awesome the show was — and it really was — but then I also asked him if he was a big basketball fan.

Reyes’ eyes lit up. He went on to describe his NBA fandom, how he had been a Milwaukee Bucks fan since 2009 despite never having been to the city. He talked about Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bogut, and all of his favorite players from that team. We took a picture and that was the end of the night.

After I got home I kept thinking how cool it was that I got to ask him that question, and how funny it was that he too was a sports fan. I couldn’t stop thinking about how awesome, unifying, and worldwide sports have become. 

But sporting events are not intimate, and they are not nearly as intimate as the concert from which I’d just returned. So I started thinking, “How could a sporting event match the intimacy of a concert at the Che?”

In all my years of being a sports fan, I’ve only ever gotten a chance to meet a handful of athletes, mostly in a journalistic setting. The chance to sit down and talk with a professional athlete about their personal sports fandom or really about much of anything is rare. Most people’s sports-viewing experiences involve sitting a few 100 feet or more away from the field of play and never even clearly seeing the faces of the performers, let alone meeting them.

 That sucks, but it’s the way things are and is likely the way things will be for the rest of my life at least. Professional athletes are larger than life, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to bridge that gap. There’s no safe way to let fans down on the field after games to talk to players, and players surely don’t want to sift through the throngs of fans after having just exerted themselves for a few hours, having flown for six hours across the country to do so. 

But even if athletes aren’t available directly after games, many make themselves available in the community. They volunteer at hospitals and run sports clinics for the YMCA and for their old high schools, which are far more beneficial ways to exert their energy than meeting every fan who could afford to go to a game that night. Even though a professional game will never mirror the intimate atmosphere of venues like the Che Café, that’s really not a problem. Access to sports performers isn’t a right; it’s just a luxury afforded to their friends, family, and community members that deserve some special attention, and that arrangement is fine by me.