I never watch sports. Like, ever. My dad used to take me to baseball games in the summer and I don’t remember paying attention to anything but the home runs. I would eat bagels and braid my teammates’ hair during swim meets. I went to one of the biggest football schools in the country and stopped going to the home games after my freshman year. Because I didn’t care.
Two weekends ago, though, Tara and I donned our SPORTS! gear – a Bills shirt and American flag earrings for her, a Fighting Irish tank top for me – and went to Airport Pizza to watch the Super Bowl. It was kind of on a whim: we needed a relaxing, kind of short Sunday afternoon activity during her three-hour break. We sat at a table so far back that we couldn’t really hear the TV or even really see the score, but as the (excellent) halftime show started we both felt inexplicably relaxed and refreshed. And we haven’t stopped there: the Winter Olympics has only bolstered this Watching Sports phase of our volunteer year.
As I said, I never watched sports at home, but there was something about watching the Super Bowl, and now the Olympics, that is extremely comforting and homey. Watching these programs makes me feel closer to my friends and family in the Lower 48, because they may also be watching the same program at the same time. We are sharing a common pastime even though we are hundreds or thousands of miles away from each other. Sharing a common program closes that distance.
The Olympics – although it may not seem like it – will eventually come to an end. After next weekend, I will no longer have a media channel that connects me not only to my immediate friends, but to my geographically distant friends as well. KNOM, however, does not have a season. KNOM is year-round, and serves to connect people across the geographic expanse of Western Alaska twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. You can be listening to KNOM in Teller at the same time that your best friend is listening in Wales, and the two of you can share an experience without even speaking to one another. You may not be in the same room, but you are doing an activity together. Although I’ve described KNOM’s mission and goals over and over, I didn’t really, truly understand how important that service is until I’d been living far away from home for six months.