Wednesday, November 2, 2011

He Shoots He Touchdowns!

I've always had a complicated relationship with sports. It's just one of those areas of the entertainment sector where I constantly find myself torn between two worlds. On the one hand, the intellectual in me is quick and precise in pointing out the general meaningless nature of the entire affair, and that my tendency towards one particular team or sport is built out of proximity, perception of public appeal, and relative accessibility. On the other hand, the emotional being in me tells me that that's all perfectly fine as attaching oneself to a sport can lead to an exhilarating rollercoaster of a journey.

The problem with this? When people ask me my opinion of sports I go through a long winded explanation of how my fascination with the competitive nature of it is predicated more so on entertainment than real emotional investment. An explanation I find a good 0 in 5 people actually care to hear. Many would much rather that I grunt, crush a bear can on my head, and yell "ooga ooga" in a steadfast declaration of 'yes.'

As a male there's some never ending gravitational force seemingly trying to force me to honestly invest in a sport team. That sort of sexist mentality that sports are 'manly' things and that all real men should succumb to their power and give themselves over to whatever team they are most entranced by. But to go that far just doesn't seem to excite me. Growing up in a little town called Wake Forest, which is nestled right in the middle of Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh, you can well imagine the large part that College Basketball with Duke, UNC, and NC State only a few miles in either direction (before you ask, Wake Forest University is not in Wake Forest, it was just founded here...).

When my dad moved here with my mom from San Diego/San Francisco just before the Coach K Duke era, everyone here was either a UNC fan or an NC State fan. So naturally he became a Duke fan. For my own part, having grown up through so many of their championships, I generally lean that direction as well. But if Duke loses a game or is knocked out of the NCAA tournament, I don't go into a figurative coma and bemoan the end of society. Nor does my dad for that matter, but I guarantee both of us could name any number of fans of the aforementioned teams who do.

For the NFL, I guess I like the Panthers alright, but they didn't come around until I was roughly 10 years old. By then I was rather disenfranchised with the whole sporting experience so a formidable bond was never developed. With my parents from the Frisco area, and the great 49ers teams of the '90s, I spent lots of my formative years watching them go to championship after championship. There's some love/loss relationship with the Chargers from my dad being raised there, but I'm not sure where I sit on that spectrum.

But no matter what, there's one real truth for me: I only have it in me to care about one sport at a time. And funny enough neither of the above are the sport I'm all that invested in at the moment. Despite the limited accessibility, I've found myself quite taken with European Football (soccer), specifically the UEFA Cup and the Barclay's Premier League. Why? I think it's rather simple - well timed entertainment. The great advantage that Soccer has over most other sports is that it bent the will of the networks to meet its own needs, rather than the other way around. Whereas in Football and Basketball you're likely to have fifty commercials every time a player so much as passes wind, Soccer has an easy, straightforward setup that's hard to interrupt. Two forty-five minute halves with what is basically an elongated commercial half-time in between, and that's it.

Sure, the lack of goals can be frustrating for those who need that constant release of excitement, but I find I'm far more thrilled with the lead up to the goal than the actual score. I would wager much of that is due to me not really having a team to cheer for, so who scores exactly has no real impact on my general perception of the game. Since I've been watching it for a couple of months now I can safely say there are some players I don't much care for, but when you're watching a sport with that much flopping (which I think is hilarious) and egotism (which is really in every sport), that's just bound to happen.

Will I keep on watching and enjoying European football? Maybe... Then again, there was a time in my life where I spent all Sunday watching the NFL and thinking I'd not stop watching this anytime soon. Ah, memories.

5 better thoughts:

John said...

You mention the proximity aspect. I think there's a great sociology book to be written- if it hasn't already been written- about the way that sports provide a rallying point for a community's citizens to gather and re-affirm their values, whatever they are. It's reflected in the players and teams that they're willing to get behind. Just as a diverse place like Brooklyn could serve as a testing ground for integration, a place like St. Louis would rally around an unassuming great like Stan Musial. Those probably aren't the best examples but I think you might get the idea.

Castor said...

Playing fantasy football helps with the fanaticism that the NFL can generate :) Soccer is fun to play but I've never really been a fan of watching it except for really big events like the World Cup which are always fun.

In related news, your Panthers got pwned by the Vikings last weekend muahahahaha

Colin said...

I think you may mean the Champions League, not the UEFA Cup (which no longer exists).
Be careful about baring your soul about football (the proper football, the one you predominantly use your foot with) on a site where we Brits can read it. We get very prickly at our American brethren when they dismiss it, mock it, demean it or drop in a few sayings that they think sound right.You have been warned!

Anyway, I've been passionate about it for forty years. My life used to revolve around it, but perhaps not quite so much now. In fairness, I also adore baseball, with my team (Cleveland - I used to go 20 times a season when I lived in America) equally as futile as my football team Tottenham.

And Castor, you've been warned too. :-P

Univarn said...

@John There probably is but I am a far cry from the man to write it.

@Castor My issue with fantasy football is finding people to play with who take it seriously. If you go through the instant plays you get sidelined with folks who either don't care or are doing a hundred leagues and only pay attention to the ones they got good draft picks on.

My attempts to found my own have all ended in disaster.

@Colin Aye aye, I mistyped when I put Cup - probably because I wrote this on the fly this morning that was the first word that came to mind.

Thanks for the warning, though I'm still just as likely to point out any flaws I think (non-American) football may have. Though I'm not going to be as bad as claiming you guys should push back your games a few hours to better suit American viewership. I'm up early on the weekends anyways, so that's no big deal. However, I do wish there were more opportunities here in the states to watch the Champions League matches. They pretty much play at 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM on weekedays while I'm at work, and at night their being a replay is dependent on whether or not the MLS season is going on.

Castor said...

I hear you. I never really found a good league until a group of friends of mine decided to get our own league, with trophy and cash pool to go along. That really ramped up everyone's interest in the NFL for sure ;)

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