Will someone please explain the appeal of team sports?

Rafael Nadal lost in the second round of Wimbledon today.

He’s not my very favorite player on the tour, but I like him and I felt sorry for him. He’s just so darned cute. Seeing him lose is like watching a puppy get kicked.

I also felt sad that I wouldn’t get to watch him play for the next week too, but mostly it was sympathy for him.

That’s what I like best about tennis, you get to know the players.

Or at least you get an idea of who they are.

In my mind, Rafa is the cute one, Roger Federer is a gentleman, Andy Murray is a jerk. I’m ambivalent about Novak Djokovic.

I’ve made these judgments simply based on how they play and brief post-match interviews.

I know these guys aren’t really as I imagine them, but since I’ll never get the chance to meet any of them, there’s nothing wrong with assigning them with imaginary personality traits as I see fit.

Since my fondness of tennis has a lot to do the personalities of the players, I don’t understand how people become so passionate about team sports.

Do Red Sox and Patriots fans connect with individual players the way I do with tennis players? If so, how?

With tennis, you get to spend three or four hours with just two players. You see them pump themselves up when they are winning, hang their heads when they are losing.

Hell, we even got to watch Pete Sampras puke and Andrea Agassi lose his hair piece.

Team sports games are usually shorter and there are dozens of players, often wearing helmets or hats so you can barely tell them apart.

How do fans get the opportunity to get to know individual players when there are so many of them on the field? How do they decide who to connect to?

Maybe my preference for an individual sport is a manifestation of my own personality. I prefer small groups to crowds, so I prefer two men with tennis rackets to a whole gang of men with hockey sticks.

But even if tennis is the sport of introverts, I’d still love to understand the appeal of the more socially acceptable team sports so I maybe could enjoy them too.

Or at least when someone asked me about the Celtics, Red Sox or Patriots game, I could answer with something other than, “how about that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.”


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