Athletes professional and amateur love the Sweet Spot. Tennis players know what I’m talking about. It’s that small but perfect place in the racket’s strings that propels the ball with the optimum force and spin. It’s the fat part of the baseball bat that separates a towering homer from an infield grounder.
Sports fans have sweet spots, too. Mine comes right about now, the middle of October. The baseball World Series is about to start, the hockey season is up and skating along, college and professional football dominates weekend television, and college basketball tips off in less than three weeks.
Ah, college hoops. In certain locales, residents luxuriate in it. To many residents in North Carolina’s Triangle of Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh, this season is the best time of the year. The first games tip off as falling leaves clog our gutters and jackets come out of the closet, and when time runs out in the final game, daffodils are peeking through the ground, and dogwood trees begin to bloom. Forget seasonal solstices. This is winter solace.
The Internet tells us that the word fan means “enthusiast, supporter” and is a shortened form of fanatic. Its uses trace back as early as 17th century. Our modern use of the word fan to mean a sports supporter showed up in the late 19th century. Soccer fans in some countries sing fight songs together, like a great choir, and on occasion physically attack fans of opposing teams. Here in the States, we fans show our support in a variety of ways, painting our faces, in some cases our entire bodies, in team colors. Some fans travel many miles at considerable expense to support their teams at games on the road, often taunting home town fans rudely. Cars are painted in team colors, team flags fly in front of homes. Team colors and logos adorn all manner of clothing. Special rooms in our homes are decorated in certain colors.
I have never painted my face or any part of my body in my team’s colors. But I will admit to choosing underwear, socks and shirt in team colors on game days, and my bedroom is painted a particular shade of blue. Doesn’t really help the team win, but it makes me feel as if I’ve done my part.
Some of our friends celebrate the coming of fall weather, citing crisp nights, cooler temperatures, certain favorite foods coming into season. I’ve always greeted the season with a level of regret, knowing that it ushers in undesirably cold weather. But this Sweet Spot on my sports calendar offers solace. Will we make the Final Four this year?