Again, why do we follow sports?

What do sports mean to us?  What do we get out of sports at a personal level?

If we break sports down to their essential basics, they are rather absurd.  Put this small ball into a hole, 400 yards away using nothing but sticks in as few swings as possible.  Put this large round ball into an 8 foot tall by 8 foot wide space on the other end of the field using nothing but your feet.  Move this oblong ball down the field past this line while holding onto it.  These are patently ridiculous things to attempt to accomplish when viewed in a vacuum. Yet, we watch them religiously.

In simpler more innocent time, sports provided fans a sense of community and family.  As a fan of a sport and a team you were not alone.  There were others out there like you.  You felt as if you were part of something larger, something important.  Also, like a family, no matter how dysfunctional it may have been, you were still part of it.

Then the internet age began.  Now, maybe the most important thing sports provide is the same voyeuristic outlet as soap operas and movies.  With today’s 24/7 coverage of sports we get constant information that turns sports into a constant reality show.

We are bombarded with news about a player and what is happening in his life.  Athletes give feature interviews that run on the 8 ESPN channels every 5 minutes and people watch every time.  Athletes are on Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, etc. giving us the illusion of speaking directly to fans.  So we think we know these people.

What we don’t notice or care about is that the more access we have to them, the more they control what we see of them.  Unless, of course, they truly fuck up.  Then and only then does a usually compliant national press corps dig deep into a person.  Because at the moment athlete screws up publicly, his screw up drives ratings much better than his athletic exploits ever did.

Most non-football fans would not have known Manti Te’o if he came into their house and sat on their lap before last week.  Up until then he was just a football player at Notre Dame who might have an OK career in the NFL and some tragic stuff happened to him in September.  Now he is a national punch line or a grifter extraordinaire that everyone knows.

We go from thinking we know them and how great they are to making them a laughing stock and holding them up for ridicule in the time it takes to post a story on the internet.

I don’t want to go back to the mid-20th century of sports reporting where no one talked about Mickey Mantle being a drunk and getting into bar fights.  Neither do I want sports reporters to act like TMZ correspondents.

Yes, a lot of the stuff is entertaining (“honey nut cheerios” is funny), but does it in anyway enhance your viewing enjoyment of the sport?

Maybe I’m thinking about this stuff because first, the last year has seen many of the heartwarming sports narratives ground into dust by reality.  Or maybe it is that this is my least favorite two weeks of the sporting calendar.

During the two weeks before the Super Bowl, reporters get bored with talking about the game and stuff devolves into silly debates and made up angles and ridiculous stories.  Media Day at the Super Bowl is possibly the most odious thing we do in sports.  It has nothing to do with the actual game.  There will be no real news.  There will be nothing but gadflies trying to get a mention by the national media for something stupid they asked or wore.

Just once I want an athlete to get asked an idiotic question by someone wearing a costume and answer like this, “Seriously.  I am playing the biggest game of my life on Sunday.  I should be somewhere looking at tape or going over the game plan.  Instead, I’m sitting here with this dumb-ass in a Superman costume asking dumb-ass questions.  He is wasting my time and you guys time.  How the hell long do I have to sit here and do this crap?  I got things to do.  Some of them rather fucking important.  But hey, I’ll sit here and listen to this idiocy because if I don’t the commissioner will fine me for having common sense.  Next question.”

That would be one of the happiest days of my sporting life.

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