The Death of a Sports Fan

I used to love watching professional sports.  I would not only watch sports, but I would research my favorite sports teams during their off-season.  I was not a completely crazy fanatic, but I definitely followed sports much more than the average fan.  To give some evidence to this assertion, I get about 91% of the sports questions on Trivia Crack correct.  (Please comment if you have a higher percentage.  If you do not comment, I will just assume that my sports knowledge is far superior to yours.  Ha.)

However, I find myself not nearly as drawn to viewing sports as I used to.  Spending money or taking time to watch other people play a game has become less and less attractive to me.  Why is this?  There are three main reasons why I now struggle with enjoying my time cheering on people I do not personally know.  These three reasons tie together, but I will briefly outline each before we bring all the thoughts together.

The cost in time and money

Enjoying sports entertainment can be relatively cheap.  Listening to a game on the radio costs hardly any money.  Watching a game on television could be cheap, but it depends on your television package.  One reason I do not own a TV is because if I did, I would have to buy a package that had a lot of sports channels.  Those packages are not cheap.  Of course the team I want to watch, the Dallas Stars, are not regularly available on the sports channels in Massachusetts.  That means I would have to buy an extra package to watch the Stars.  When you throw in the electric bill, you are talking well over a hundred dollars a month to watch my sports.  Even watching on-line can be expensive, and maybe not worth it since national and local games are not available with the on-line package, and neither are the playoffs.

Attending a game live can be ridiculously expensive.  One could easily spend a couple hundred dollars on one night out.  Of course you could buy the cheap(er) seats, but even that, after parking, gas, and probably some food, you are talking close to one day’s pay check.  And we are talking just the regular season here.  Playoffs?  Forget about it.

I do not want to know the amount of hours I have spent watching sports throughout my lifetime.  I do not want to know the amount of hours I have spent reading up on sports, or discussing sports, or watching highlights of sports.  I am afraid that the number would cause me to slap myself really hard … several times.  Were many of those hours enjoyable to me?  Absolutely.  But many of those hours were also very disappointing (but I do not want to get ahead of myself, that is the next point).

How many hours have I spent cheering for people that I do not personally know instead of cheering on or encouraging my wife in life?  My wife can actually hear me.  Maybe I ought to rethink what I am doing.

I know that some people watch sports with their family, and that can be a good thing.  But for me and a number of other households, the men are watching sports mostly alone.

For this reason I have decided to keep my sports viewing limited to only communal viewing.  That way I at least get to share an experience with someone other than my inanimate television.  Not only that, but I want to keep the game mostly secondary.  I would love to engage in some light or meaningful discussion instead of just vegetatively sitting next to a person.  I would even settle for a discussion that is sports strategy.  The struggle I have with even communal viewing is that if we actually kept time on how long people talk to each other during a game, the number would be quite low; I am sure the number of minutes of meaningful conversation is even lower.

I do not think that playing sports is as much of a waste.  Playing sports does many things for the mind and body.  Sports can be used for many good purposes.  But at this point in my life, watching sports for purely entertainment purposes does not provide much for my mind or body.

It is good for people to have some method of relaxing and an activity that provides reward.  Certainly watching sports can provide this … at times.  However, I have found that just as many times, sports can create tension and disappointment.  But again, I am getting ahead of myself.  So let us move on to the next point.

The faithlessness of people

As I hinted at above, sports can bring just as much discouragement as positive entertainment.  Only one team wins a championship.  Everyone else loses.  That means the vast majority of people end the season in disappointment.  Why is this?  Because even the best of us are not always the best.  We cannot rely on a person to always play up to their fullest potential.  As a race, we are faithless.

For me, losing hurts more than winning feels good.  I can still vividly recall how the Stars collapsed in Game 6 of the playoffs in 2014.  Of course I can still vividly recall the Stars winning the Stanley Cup in ’99, but that is the last time I was able to end the season on a high note.  Every other year was ended in disappointment.

I can tell you why losing hurts more than winning feels good.  Because in professional sports, my team is supposed to win.  They are getting paid to win.  It is their job to win.  So when they do win, my thoughts are, “That is good, but you were supposed to do that.”  So I get happy that they do their job, but it is a mitigated happiness.  However, when my team does not win, or even worse, does not even play well, now they are not doing their job, and that creates a lot of frustration.  Think about it.  This true in other areas of life.  I am willing to bet no one cheers for you at the end of the day when your job is done.  Your coworkers or employer may say, “good job” or something to that effect, but that is about it.  However, if you fail at your job just a few times in a year, it is a good possibility that you will lose your job.  (I realize that the players are mostly getting paid to play well, not necessarily win.  However, a number of times when they lose, it is not because they got outplayed, but because they simply did not play to their potential.)

I remember moving up to MA in ’05.  The Boston Bruins were coming off a season where they finished first in their division.  Not only that, but they had finished first in two of the last three years.  I was excited to meet a bunch of hockey fans from what I thought to be hockey crazed Beantown.  However, I found many people up here who had given up on the Bruins.  Why?  Their team was first place last year in their division, had made the playoffs for the last three years, and for 34 of the last 37 years.  I will tell you why: because the Bruins had lost in the first round of the playoffs for the last three years.  So all the good the team had done had almost been completely wiped away due to playoff failures.

In the above paragraph, both the players and fans were faithless.  The fans were faithless when it came to supporting their team, and the players were faithless when it came to fulfilling their job.  The truth of the matter is that we humans are faithless.  We are good one year, and disappointing the next.  Actually, we are good one shift, or one trip down the court, or one at-bat, or one snap, or one volley, or one swing of the club, or one touch of the ball, and then bad the next.  Of course it may not be that dramatic (it is more that way for us amateurs), but it can be accurate for a time even among the best of us.

We humans are unreliable.  Sure we can be reliable for a time, but reliable for a time means that you are unreliable.  Reliable does not mean “partly reliable” or even “mostly reliable”.   Even if someone is reliable for the majority of his athletic career, eventually he is going to age, and become less and less reliable.  We are so unreliable that we think getting three hits in ten at-bats is reliable.  Switching to hockey, nine out of ten save chances may sound pretty reliable, but not when that one goal is scored when the game is tied.

Given that humans are faithless and unreliable, why do I invest so much time, money, and emotion in people who will many times not perform their task in a way that I can celebrate?  I would rather invest my time, money, and emotion in something that I can almost always celebrate.  This leads to the next point.

The faithfulness of God

If I were not aware of the faithfulness of God, then I do not think the previous section would have ever been written.  I can completely understand people saying, “Come on, Curtis.  How can you possibly have such an incredibly high demand of faithfulness of people?”  Well, the answer is because of how convinced I am of the faithfulness of God.

God is perfectly faithful.  He never fails to fulfill His role.  If He were a baseball player, He would bat 1.000.  If He were a hockey goalie, no puck would ever get by Him.  Ever.  If He were a tennis player, He would ace every serve, perfectly return every serve, and win every point … with just one swing of the racket every point.  Wow.

We get so impressed with our ability to do well much of the time, but we often times forget that we do not do well many times.  We praise people who only win a championship once or twice in their playing career.  We even praise people who never win a championship; that is how low our standards are.  Every time I fall short, or when I see accomplished athletes fall short, I reflect on the fact that God never falls short.  Every time I see a guy miss a jumpshot, I think, “God would not have missed that.”  Watch a game and say that every time you see someone miss a shot.  I think that exercise will drive home the point.

But God is not like us.  He does not play sports, neither does He involve Himself with our games, at least not on the level of affecting the outcome.  He does not care who wins or loses.  He cares about how we carry ourselves during the game.

I want to be more like God.  It used to be a great idea to try to be like Mike.  He was the best in the world.  But now he is not.  God is still God.  Right now, God is allowing people to score points on Him.  He is not too concerned with how many points people have on Him.  He is really good at making comebacks.  Remember the first time when they thought they had killed Him?  Christ proved to them that He was only letting them win.  He came back.  Remember the next time when they thought they had killed Him?  He was pronounced dead by one of the world’s finest minds (Nietzsche).  Well, Christianity is still strong and changing many people’s lives.

God will show Himself faithful.  When we do not think He is faithful, it is because we have not understood His promises.  Christ allows us to live with peace even when everything is falling apart.  Why?  Because He showed that even if death were to grab you, He can give you life.  There is nothing too great for God.

Another reason why I want to be like God?  Because He even wants the people who are trying to beat Him into the ground to be on the winning side.  He is a recruiter.  He loves everybody.  Even the Yankees.

Since I have such a great example to learn from and follow, I do not want to settle for examples that I know will just eventually let me down.  If I learn from someone perfect, then maybe I will come closer to perfection than if I try to learn from someone very imperfect.  Of course I will never be perfect, but having my eyes set on perfection will remind me that I am not perfect and will help me stay humble.  If I were to compare myself with imperfection, I would quite possibly become prideful.  So spending more time on God helps me grow, but not to grow proud.

Conclusion

There are truly so many other ways to spend one’s time and money than watching sports.  I am sure I can easily find other hobbies that is not nearly as isolating as sports viewing.  People at times can certainly do incredible things, at least from the perspective of us fallible people.  But even when we are at our best, we usually are not too far from our worst.  Since I have seen the incredible faithfulness of God, I will not be able to buy the jersey of a fallible man and wear his name on my back.  Mike Modano was my favorite person to ever watch play any game.  I have a couple of his jerseys.  I am sure I will don his hockey sweater again.  But the luster of those sweaters certainly are faded in the light of the glory of God.

Postscript

I started writing this blog post in December of 2014.  I am now finally finishing this post in May of 2016.  It has been a long, slow, gradual death for me.  Sometime early in 2016 I decided that I would keep watching professional sports until the Dallas Stars were finished with their playoff run.  They finished first in the Western Conference and second in the NHL overall, so it was a good possibility that they could do quite well.  Well, Tyler Seguin, one of the best players in the NHL and on the Dallas Stars went down with an injury and the rest of the team could not step up their game enough and they were ousted in the second round … in game 7 … on their own home ice … losing 1-6.  That loss pretty much epitomized why I cannot watch sports anymore.

Riding home from my friend’s house I had an epiphany.  I was riding home and not driving home because I had recently hurt my back.  My wonderful wife desired to volunteer to drive so I could be in a reclined position which is far better for my back.  Here I had just invested and sacrificed three hours of my life cheering for people who were 2000 miles away from me who had no idea I was alive, much less even rooting for them.  My caring wife, who was about 2 feet away from me that whole time, had probably only received about 3 minutes of my devotion.  Now this beautiful woman was giving up her comfort for the sake of my comfort even after I practically ignored her.

Never again.

On that trip home I deleted all my sports apps, unfavorited all sports pages, and unsubscribed from every sports email.

I have not watched a game since or even gone once to a single sports website.  You know what?  I am doing well despite my death.  Very well.

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One comment

  1. Great article Curtis. You are wise seeing what you see. I like that you made the point about viewing sports as a communal activity but dying to it as an isolating one. I enjoyed how you connected God’s faithfulness to our unfaithfulness (or unreliability) through sports. But my favorite was your post script. The point that we give our admiration and devotion to people who don’t even know we exist and can ignore the person right next to us, even the person who means the most to us in the world. “Never again”. I love it.

    Like

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