APTOPIX UFC 249 Mixed Martial Arts

Carla Esparza (right) lands a punch on Michelle Waterson during a UFC 249 mixed martial arts bout on May 9 in Jacksonville, Florida. For the author, MMA doesn’t carry much appeal.

Everybody’s taste buds are different.

I could be starving – legitimately famished – but I’d have to be pretty desperate to break down and eat vegetables. Especially the green ones. Yecch. I’d sooner accept a swift kick to the groin than nibble on a green bean. Seriously.

Like most fans, I’ve been starving for sports. I miss the games, miss the plays, even miss the pointless, say-nothing in-game interviews with coaches. (Whither art thou, Gregg Popovich?) But I guess I don’t miss sports as much as I thought. Because I’m not so hungry as to consume UFC, NASCAR or skins golf.

You may feel the same way about baseball or tennis or soccer or basketball. I suspect there are even sports fans who exist who don’t like football, though they’re probably on the endangered species list.

And that’s OK. You can be a sports fan without liking ALL the sports.

Truth be told, I’ve always had a pretty inviting palette when it comes to sports. The big three – football, basketball, baseball – are every-day staples of my fan diet. Put them on an all-you-can-eat buffet, and I still wouldn’t get enough. Beyond that, I enjoy both watching and playing tennis. Disc golf is a regular activity, while actual golf is a pastime that both frustrates and entices. Volleyball is highly entertaining, be it on a beach or a court. Boxing might be my fourth-favorite sport, and I’ve drawn plenty of thrills from track meets, too. Softball is baseball’s (sometimes better-looking) little sister. Other sports I appreciate watching from time to time include gymnastics, dodgeball, hockey, rugby and horse racing. And it’s not a comprehensive list.

But even a fat man has some things he won’t put in his mouth.

For me, NASCAR is at the top of the list. I can appreciate the drivers’ ability. On some level, I can understand the appeal. I have family members who get revved up every race day. It’s just not my scene, man.

When I was discussing this notion with my pal Chad Conine and made the comparison to Brussels sprouts, he said, “NASCAR isn’t Brussels sprouts, it’s a fried Spam sandwich.” That seems about right. Let’s say a fried Spamich topped with pimento cheese, even. The races are an acquired taste, and I (thankfully) haven’t made that acquisition.

Is it a cultural thing? I don’t think so. I’m not Canadian and I can get into ice hockey. There’s a song (that I like) by the country artist Hardy called “Rednecker,” where he proudly declares that his town is smaller, his truck is louder and his chaw has more spit than yours. “You might think you’re a redneck, but I’m rednecker than you,” Hardy ultimately decides.

NASCAR fans may indeed be rednecker than me, but I think it says less about my willingness to drive a pickup truck or wear a mullet or eat a Slim Jim than it does about my contention that dozens of cars traveling in circles hypnotizes me into boredom.

A week ago, UFC became the first major sports league to return. I think I watched about five minutes of a match before flipping the channel. Over the years, I’ve watched very little MMA. The irony is, I love a good (boxing) fight. If we’re sticking with the culinary analogies, MMA is a bowl of oatmeal. Or maybe a carrot. It’s just bland. Now, add some blueberries or peaches (to the oatmeal) or drench a gallon of glazed honey (on the carrots) and we’re in business.

Under the right setting, I think I could get into MMA. Put me in a room with a bunch of bloodthirsty MMA fans for a compelling, consequential clash, and I’d have more of a rooting interest. But I don’t follow the sport closely enough to know the main characters, and that diminishes its appeal.

As for watching golf, it’s low on my to-do list, too. Oh, when the majors roll around, I’ll tune in with a keen eye. Every two years, the Ryder Cup sparks a spirit of nationalism and strips some of the staid veneer too often evident on the regular PGA Tour.

But golf creeps along at a slothful pace. So a random tournament (or a skins event) in May doesn’t usually make my heart race. I had a date with cleaning the garage on Sunday afternoon anyway. Perhaps if that hadn’t been on my agenda, I might have checked in to see what Rickie Fowler and Rory McIroy were up to. I wouldn’t bet on it, though. More likely I would have dozed on the couch or read a book or binge-watched episodes of Parks and Rec.

Those aren’t the only sports veggies I avoid. The Tour de France seems mind-numbing enough on its own without adding the “everybody’s a cheater” aspect on top of it. If you want to take your sailboat to the lake next weekend, knock yourself out, but just don’t ask me to cheer from the beach. Sailing has to be the world’s slowest racing sport. And I’ll need a horse syringe full of Red Bull before I ever attend my next equestrian match. (Honestly, that’s still not enough caffeine.)

If the NBA returned tomorrow, on the other hand, I’d stuff myself silly with seconds and thirds. You might not. Again, that’s OK. Your (taste) buds are different than my buds. In a lot of ways, sports fans are a niche market within a niche market.

Eat my veggies? No thanks.

I’d rather die happy.

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