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Televised Sports: My Personal Ambien

Posted by on August 5, 2008

World Series Game Six 1993.

It was the bottom of the ninth and there was one out. Rickey Henderson was on second base and Paul Molitor stood on first as Joe Carter approached the plate. The Phillies were up 6-5 and would play Game 7 at home if the Blue Jays couldn’t close the door. I was 14 years old at the time, so besides showing up for school without my homework completed, this was as intense as life got. As Carter looked like a house league rookie swinging at a 2-1 slider, it didn’t look good for my Blue Jays and I dropped to my knees in desperation. I didn’t want to have to go through this anguish again in Game 7. The same day I had been crushed, finding out Alyssa Milano was dating some TV heart throb punk, my heart couldn’t take anymore of a beating today. But then it happened, the next pitch Carter lifted into the left field stands and the Blue Jays had won their second World Series in as many years, I jumped in the air and screamed in joyous relief, there would be no Game 7.

“Michael, keep it down, some of us are trying to sleep” came the bellows from upstairs, and so began the hour long one man parade and silent celebration.

Thinking back to that day, and excluding major soccer tournaments, that might have been the last time I was excited to watch a sporting event on television. I’m just talking about your typical north american televised sports (NHL, NFL, MLB, and NBA), because personally I cannot even begin to understand the interest behind events like Cricket and Nascar.

To each their own, but Cricket has games that can sometimes go for six hours a day for 5 days, and Nascar just seems like a bunch of guys turning left for four hours while wasting ridiculous amounts of gas. I think Nascar would be more appealing to me if in the corner of the screen I could see how many barrels of oil have currently been used and its equivalent dollar value. That’s a tally I’d TIVO from time to time.

I do enjoy the energy of live sports (to a 3hr max.) and the feelings that surround the experience. No matter if I love or abhor the game at hand, I just like seeing people having a good time. Friends and family enjoying the day and cheering their favourite teams to victory. I love the atmosphere; but put me on a couch or even a bar stool to watch that same game and the experience is immediately as interesting as watching clips of The View, and I begin concocting escape routes and fakeable illnesses. Mind you, at least at the bar I have the choice of downing shot after shot of sambuca until the commentators actually sound engaging.

This discussion of my disinterest in sports came up between myself and a close friend during this year’s NHL playoffs. The two of us might just be the only Canadians who enjoyed the silence that ‘the ’04-’05 NHL lockout brought about. For my interest to last more than a “What’s the score?” these days, it has to be a Championship Series Game 7 involving a team I either like or have bet a substantial amount of money on (since I don’t gamble, substantial is defined by anything over $25).

I find it very difficult to grab onto any sort of anticipatory climax when the final result of any season won’t be known for months, and during playoff time my interest peaks by checking the paper in the morning to see who won and if by chance another player took a skate to the neck, because that my friend is news. As for someone scoring three goals in a game, or catching a couple touchdowns, big yawn, tell me he did it with one arm and no steroids and you’ve got my attention.

The only sporting event I can truly get into is a World Cup or Euro Cup tournament which lasts about a month and every goal has a real consequence for the fate of the team. If you have a team to follow, or a loyalty to a country in the tournament, it can get pretty intense. But even still, if Italy were not to compete in one of these tournaments I’d likely be back to checking the paper in the morning to see who won and what poor bastard scored on his own net and will likely be castrated and painted like a peacock when he returns to his home country.

Though televised sports is low man on the totem pole for my extra time and leisure, I’d never knock anyone that loves their Red Sox, Lakers, or always useless Maple Leafs, because I do understand that sports is pure escapist entertainment. Its yet another outlet that allows us to concentrate on something other than this month’s mortgage payment, what this speeding ticket will do to my insurance, or even the results you got from the doctor yesterday.

Most things that can take you out the seriousness of life for a moment are usually a good thing, and its what we live for, its what we chase. These things are the pockets of happiness we wait for: A concert, a weekend camping trip, your daughter’s first step, a first kiss, a second kiss, or even the simple smile after your team wins 6-0 vs. the worst team in the league. Its a reason to smile, and more times than not, that’s a positive thing. Just please don’t cry when your team loses, trust me, there will be another season, and they’ll probably lose again.

“Sports is man’s joke on God. You see, God says so man, ‘I’ve created a universe where it seems like everything matters, where you’ll have to grapple with life and death and in the end, you’ll die anyway, and it won’t really matter.’ So man says to God, ‘Oh yeah? Within your universe we’re going to create a sub-universe called sports, one that absolutely doesn’t matter, and we’ll follow everything that happens in it as if it were life and death.” -Sam Kellerman


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