They say I'm addicted. They say it's become my life. It's all I need for a good time. I'll do it alone, with thousands of people around, even with my family there. An obsession? Maybe. A love? Definitely. So what can I say? I can't help it. My name is Michael, and I am a sports junkie.
My parents knew early that I had a passion for sports. When I wasn't playing baseball, I was watching it; when I wasn't watching it; I was talking about it, and when I wasn't talking about it, well, I was probably thinking about it. My career, however, was cut short by my refusal to wear glasses on the field, and the number of games I could watch on television were limited by the divergent viewing interests of my family. On those lucky nights when I finished my homework early and was permitted a glimpse of the Mets game, my father quickly became disgusted by the "habits" of some players and before long, we were watching Jim Lehrer on PBS. "Ah, delam beham khord," he uttered in his thick Persian accent as he pondered how his son could love something he himself couldn't stomach.
This scene became commonplace in the Khalili household for some time. The battle for viewing rights became a staple in our nightly routine. It was an unfair battle: my parents, born and raised in Iran, had no interest in the American pastime. Nor did my sister Jasmine, also born in Iran. I was outnumbered, three to one, and in our democratic household, majority rules. But how could they strip me of my love? I prayed that the ball players would stop spitting, but they didn't, and my father's interest wasn't growing. So instead, I prayed for a miracle.
Upon realizing that a miracle simply was not going to happen, I thought about how I could solve the problem. Many times, I have changed to suit my parents' needs. As Persian Jews who fled from Iran to escape persecution, they aren't the typical immigrants, and have faced some difficulty in "Americanizing." I have a lot to explain to them, from instructing my mother in spelling to explaining to my father why baseball players feel the need to spit on the field. And just as it was nearly impossible for me to explain why "tough" ends with "gh," it was equally hard, if not hopeless, to explain to my father this odd custom of baseball. But after trying endlessly to make him feel something that obviously wasn't there, I began to surrender. I didn't need a miracle to survive. They weren't going to change; I was.
One day, flipping through the channels, my father came to a halt on an NBA game. We watched in silence, both of us novices to the game, as Michael Jordan "Ooh'd" and "ahh'd" the crowd with his wonders. I had never understood, nor enjoyed basketball, but as I saw the expression of interest on my father's face, I believed that I could learn to. I had made him watch all my favorite sports, from baseball to marathon running, and none had captivated him like this.
Now, four years later, there is a two-to-two deadlock between members of my family. My father, hours before a game begins, asks, "Knicks play?" and understanding what he means, I respond, "Yes, it's going to be a great game!" We discuss Patrick Ewing's jump shot and John Starks' defense, then he'll go to his office and finish up on some paperwork so he'll be able to watch the game with me. Later on, we tune into the game and the remote control collects dust for a good two and a half hours. We watch through time-outs, through half-time; even through commercials. Once in a while we'll be lucky and catch an NBA spot that features dazzling dunks, awe-inspiring shots, and a slogan that brings it home ... "I Love This Game." -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.