Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Good Match

I’m not much of a sports fan. But every rule’s got an exception. Mine’s tennis. Every year, over the same two weeks, I spend more time than I care to admit in front of my television watching the US Open. Coincidentally, it’s around this time that I make my way to the court year after year to remind myself what an awful player I am.

My husband and I are almost always cheering on opposite points. He usually roots for the underdog, while I’m loyal to the players I’ve loved and followed for years. Of course, even among those I have my favorites.
The other night, though, I was watching a match with two players I’d never seen before. Within minutes, I found myself rooting for one player over the other. I started to wonder what made me choose him, even though the match was very close and neither player was particularly better than the other. I ran through my favorite players in my mind to see if they shared personality traits, but found they did not. While Djokovic is full of flair, guys like Federer and Nadal are much more demure. Yet I love them all.
It made me think about the kind of fictional characters I’m drawn to and whether they’re similar to each other. As I went through my mental checklist, I realized that the characters I love are all over the map. Some are strong, dark and quiet. Others are sarcastic and witty. And then there are those who are so confused they don’t know whether they’re coming or going.
So what draws us to people, fictional or not? And in fiction, why do we want certain characters to end up together? Do they have to exhibit traits we can relate to in ourselves or is it the opposite? Do we gravitate towards people who are not necessarily like us, but instead, what we would want to be? Maybe it’s not necessarily any of these. Maybe we just like characters who make us feel invested in them. If they have one thing that makes us want to read more, watch more, hear more about them, maybe it’s not important what that one thing is, as long as it’s real.
I stayed up way too late to watch that match. The guy I was hoping would win didn’t. I wasn’t very upset, though, because I would have just had to root against him in the next round anyway, when he faces one of my favorites. But regardless of who wins the tournament, whether it’s my guy or not, what interests me most, both in tennis and fiction, is seeing a good match.

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