Lucky to be a sports fan

sports@macon.comJanuary 18, 2014 

I recently met someone who knows nothing about sports. He had never heard of this column or my sports talk show. He wouldn’t know who is playing Sunday in the NFC and AFC championship games. He doesn’t know who the football head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs is, and he doesn’t know the Atlanta Braves’ second baseman hit only .179 last season.

This was a nice man, one who simply has other interests. He likes politics and history. He is retired from a career in law enforcement and reads a lot. But the sports section is something he simply has no interest in. Those are just pages that get in the way of his news and stocks. He undoubtedly will not even see this column.

I’ve always been intrigued with those who don’t like sports. He doesn’t look forward to Saturday afternoons in the fall. He doesn’t count down to the day pitchers and catchers report. He’s not anxious for a Braves weekend series in August with the Philadelphia Phillies. And he’s not interested in the discussion of performance enhancement drugs and their impact on baseball.

Admittedly, I don’t meet many people like this. Covering sports is my career. It is my life. I love sports, and that consumes most of my day. I like other things, too, like politics, music and movies. But I’ve been blessed for many years to work in an area that I love. Not many people are as fortunate.

We all have our reasons for why or how we became sports fans. Most of us had influence from our parents, who also loved sports. I would bet the children of the man I met are not sports fans either. Some of us love it because we played it, and that carried over into adulthood when we were no longer able to do what we did as teenagers and had to watch others instead.

One of the first pictures of me as a baby was with a Braves shirt on. How about that? And I’ve always believed my grandfather has had a hand in all of this. He played baseball in the old Georgia-Florida League. Those who knew him said he spent every morning reading the box scores in the sports section, even after he stopped playing the game professionally.

Charlie “Rabbit” Williams died when I was only 2 years old, but something has always told me the love I have for the game of baseball must be his love. In some weird way, I must be living my life through his memory. He would probably marvel at how many great privileges I have as a reporter to cover the game he loved so much.

The love of baseball really hit me when I was 8. That’s when we got cable television in Waycross (that makes me sound older than I am), and Atlanta television station WTCG came on Channel 6. Some guy started putting the Braves games on there for everyone in the country to see, and a little boy who loved watching Phil Niekro pitch got hooked.

The Falcons were on television every Sunday, so that was all I needed to start watching them. The dad of my best friend in grammar school, Fred Barber, played at Georgia, so that was all I needed to watch the Bulldogs.

We all have our reasons for following the teams we follow. It might be as simple as liking a hat or jersey or player on a particular team. It might be because our parents watched a team and we watched, too. You might like the state teams because you were born here, and if not, there’s likely a good reason why you would like some other team.

Those of us who love sports are very fortunate. We develop great friendships around the teams we love. We have a hobby that is a lot of fun to watch and cheer for teams we love.

There are varying degrees of sports fans. The word fan is from fanatical, and some of us can admit we are just that. But there are also casual fans who watch when they can and might not know the entire Georgia football depth chart or who the Braves’ backup catcher will be this season.

But as I learned from meeting my new friend, it’s OK to not know anything about sports. He might be missing some good columns once in a while, but he’ll live. Everyone has their own interests, their own things they can talk about. I’m just glad my main interest is something that drives me crazy once in a while and keeps me going back to the box scores each and every day.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at Follow Bill at and e-mail him at

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