Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Marys. Bryce Harper’s hair flips. Chris Archer pitching. Derek Jeter, still. Eli Manning. Final Four. Go Cubs Go. Hot dogs. Inside. Jordy Nelson. Kevin Kiermaier’s eyes. Losing. March Madness. No-hitters. Offside. Penalty kicks. Quitters. Randy Cobb. Steph Curry. Tim Howard. University of Louisville basketball. Venus Williams. Washington Nationals. Xtra innings. Yellow and black, black and yellow. Zinedine Zidane.
I’ve never played organized sports. I broke my foot skateboarding once. I was a dancer in high school. I take ballet classes now when I can and I come home both loose and tight. Sore. I’ll prettymuch watch any sport, but baseball is my favorite. And I try my best to keep my life drama-free, but I love me some sports drama. Some high-stakes sports drama. Some one and done, some ice-water in your blood from the three-point-line. A do-or-die Hail Mary that actually works. I’m talking bottom of the ninth, down a run. Two strikes. Runners at the corners.
Angels of Anaheim. Bunts. Crossovers. Dwyane Wade. ESPN. Fumbles. Goaltending. HBP. Inherited runners. Jackie Robinson. Kris Bryant. LeBron James. Max Scherzer. Neutral zone. Obstruction. Paige, Satchel. Quiet swing. Roll Tide Roll. SportsCenter. Tony Hawk. Up. Vin Scully. World Cup. X-receiver. Yellow card. Zone blitz.
I schedule a lot of my life around sports because sports are important to my mental health and my mental health is important to my life. They help me relax, they help curb my anxiety. Even when I have a busy or bad day, it makes me feel better when I know I’ll be able to watch a baseball game when I get home. It makes me feel better when I know that at night I can listen to the baseball game while I’m working. That I can half-watch the baseball game in the reflection of our glass kitchen cabinets while I do dishes.
Anthony Rizzo. Baltimore Chops. Clay Matthews. Defensive indifference. Earned run. Field goal. Goal. Hit. Infield fly rule. Jay Wright. Kevin Love. Lonzo Ball. Mike Trout. Nickel defense. Overtime. Phelps, Michael. Quiet bats. Roger Federer. Soccer. Traveling. Upsets. Vuvuzelas. Williams, Serena. Xtreme sports. Yard, going. Zones.
Not to brag, but I was born a sports fan. Around here it’s college basketball. I’m a University of Louisville fan, ride or die. It’s where I got my English degree. It’s the university right across the street from where I want to high school. I learned to spell Louisville by staring at the UofL calendar on the spare bedroom wall of our house, making a little chant out of it so it would be easier to memorize. L-O-U-I-S-V-I-L-L-E. We watched the games together as a family and during March Madness if there was a late game, my parents would let me stay up to watch it, even on a school night. Being a UofL fan was in my blood before I was born. I didn’t choose it. But all of the other teams I root for, I chose on my own.
Adrian Beltre, Big Papi David Ortiz. Cheerleaders. Donaldson, Josh. Elvis Andrus. Footwork. Grand Slams. Houston Astros. Intentional grounding. Justin Turner. Kick. Long ball. Misty Copeland. Nadal, Rafael. Orioles, Baltimore. Padres, San Diego. Quality bats. Rajai Davis. Sean Doolittle. Texas Rangers. UCLA Bruins. Victoria Azarenka. Walk-off. Xtra bases. Yank. Zingers.
Back in the day, I used to think football was boring and only went to the games in high school because they were cozy and my girlfriends and I would get hot chocolates. I really liked the football weather in the fall and the thick, hooded school sweatshirts. I liked how the microphone clicked on when the announcer was announcing things and the Friday night lights—so planet-bright and starry against the black sky. Also, there were boys at the games.
Andrew McCutchen. Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Colorado Rockies. Drake jinxing Serena @ the 2015 U.S. Open. Elimination games. Fowles, Stacey May. Grayson Allen tripping people. Hating Duke. Innings. Jessica Luther. Katie Nolan. Longoria, Evan. Mesut Özil. Novak Djokovic. OBP. Pitino, Rick. Quality at bats. Roberto Clemente. Simone Biles. Tampa Bay Rays. USA. Vogelsong, Ryan. Warmers, bench. X games. You’re out. Zimmerman, Jordan.
My brother played tennis a lot when we were younger. And even though I was terrible I’d still go with him to hit some balls back. He and my mom and I would always watch the matches together on TV. He had a huge Andre Agassi poster on the wall of his teenage bedroom. I had a crush on preppy Pete Sampras. I liked how the tennis balls smelled when we opened a new can. I still like sitting on the tennis court now, reading while my children play one court over—the comfy warmth of that hard green, heated by the summer sun.
Albert Puljos. Brian Wilson. Clippers gon’ clip. Defense. Ejections. Free throws. Golden State Warriors. Helmets. Insurance runs. Jemele Hill. Kentucky Basketball. Left-handed pitchers, Michael Smith. Nasty dunks. Oregon Ducks basketball court. Paul, Chris. Quick pitch. Rally. Stan Wawrinka. Three strikes. Umpires. Victorino, Shane. Wins. Xtra points. Young, Cy. Zone defense.
I was super-pregnant with my son during the 2006 Fifa World Cup. I was super-pregnant-sleeping when Zidane headbutted Materazzi. I loved the noisy vuvuzelas in Cape Town in 2010. The soccer players were in Brazil in 2014, but my family and I were in Alabama, swimming in the bathwater-warm Gulf of Mexico and we listened to the USA team lose to Belguim 2-1 in extra time as we were driving back home.
Aly Raisman. Boogie Cousins. Corey Seager. DL. End zone. Foul balls. G.O.A.T. Header. Interception. James Harden. K’s. Losing streaks. Magic Johnson. Nets. Off-speed pitch. Punt. Quarterback. Red card. Skateboarding. Technical fouls. Undefeated. Von Miller. Whiff. Xavier. Yankees hate. Zip.
I was in Albuquerque when Max Scherzer threw his second no-hitter of the 2015 season. I was at home in 2013 when Yu Darvish was one out away from throwing a perfect game and Marwin Gonzalez hit a single and ruined it. I was in my living room crying in 2016 when the Chicago Cubs broke the curse and won the World Series. I was in my living room crying in 2016 when Vin Scully announced his last Dodgers Game. I was at a Dodgers/Mariners game with my then-boyfriend-now-husband and my dad and brother in 1996, summer I graduated from high school. I was at a UofL baseball game in 2014 the first time I saw someone posting a selfie with my first book on social media. I was just about to leave for Chicago for a reading when Aaron Rodgers threw the Hail Mary in 2015. The Miracle in Motown. I was watching the U.S. Open in 2015 while I was revising one of my novels. I was watching March Madness in 2017 while I was reviving my forthcoming debut novel. I remember these things because I collect them and return to them—the numbers, the batting orders, the rankings, the wins, the losses, the prayers. Little scribbles in my heart notebook, little pencil marks. I am keeping score.