Posted by: Nathan | March 20, 2006

Are Sports Worth Following?

Last Friday, much to my chagrin, #3 seed Iowa lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Being a native Iowan, I was more than a littel disappointed; I was crushed. That game put me into a bad mood for the remainder of that afternoon and parts of the rest of that weekend. Unfortunately, this kind of disappointment is the rule rather than the exception for me when it comes to sports. Every game can have only one winner; every season ends with one champion. If one roots for one team and invests a great deal of emotion into that team’s outcome, squi will be disappointed far more often than not.
For me, sports will always be entertaining and interesting. I’m naturally drawn to the game, the players, and the big moments. However, my poor handling of losses is only one of the deterrants that sports now has. Considering how intolerable sports media is becoming, the unpardonable machismo of the players, and the largesse of the time commitment being a die-hard fan demands, I begin to wonder if sports is worth following at all.
I used to be as big a fan of ESPN as I was of sports in general. Olbermann, Patrick, Mayne, Eisen, and Kilborn used to be names I used somewhat reverantly. However, in the years since the mid-90’s, sports media has changed greatly. The main shift has been from reporting to speculating. Listening to, reading, or watching sports media is now a matter of comment and prognostication. “What will this guy do?” “Will this team be good now? What about now?” “How could this possibly have happened?” “Is this the best team EVER!?!?” Overstatement is now the norm; hyprebole is ever-present. How I wish sports media would breakdown what has happened, report and comment on what is happening, and speculate only when absolutely necessary.
Another thing that is making sports on the whole more unlikeable is the attitude of the players. I cannot stomach the arrogance, selfishness, and attitude player emulate and exude these days. Let me drop a few names from the past decade or so: Owens, Rodman, Bonds, Tyson, Artest, etc. ad nauseum. Perhaps the biggest two offenders are the ego-driven NFL and the unbearable NBA. I don’t know how much one can celebrate minor events in a football game, but players these days are testing the limits. “I got a sack on second down! I am the greatest player ALIVE!” The NBA is worse. Every dunk, blocked shot, or defensive play is revoltingly egotistical. “I dunked. I am a god. Worship me and give a new shoe deal.” No wonder college ball is undeniably better to watch (Undeniably. You cannot argue the opposite.).
Perhaps the last and final reason why I’m finding it harder to make sports a priority is the time commitment it takes to follow it. Baseball season is 162 games long. An average football game is 3.5 hours. One tournament of golf takes four days to complete. Hockey playoffs last two months on their own. And there’s the analysis, the commentary, the controversial articles, the press conferences, the trades, the firings, the hirings, not to mention the scandals. It’s just not that worthwhile to me. I have other things to do. I find reading, working out, writing, playing guitar, hanging out with the wife, and going out somewhere much more enjoyable than 95% of sporting events.
I doubt that I’ll ever be able or willing to rid my life of sports altogether; it’s still fun and interesting. Sports as entertainment will always appeal to me, but with my inability to handle major defeat and the brutal combination of media hype, player stupidity, and time constraints my sports fan-dom will slowly dissipate to a passive interest.

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