In part of my identity that baffles about 2/3rds of my friends, I’m a sports fan. Worse, I’m a Boston sports fan, which means I share that curious mix of rabidity combined with scarring, searing memories of crying when the ball went between Buckner’s legs (I was 8), and similar events.
As a kid, apart from that World Series and being aware of the Celtics induced hysteria going on around me, I wasn’t much of a sports kid. I became a really serious baseball fan during high school, away from home, when it was often the thing being watched during the start of the school year and the very end; in other words, the two times I had to watch television. I started watching football at Mackie’s behest when he started teaching me the game in 2001, and in a nice coincidence, the Patriots won the Super Bowl that year and debuted Tom Brady; I was hooked from then forward.
I’ve loved sports, because it’s real, unlike most anything else on television. TV shows are focus grouped and bereft of creativity for the most part; even quite good shows can totally botch an ending or a plot twist, and jump the shark just like that. They’re too contrived, and too aimed at a particular end. Novels can work that way since there are thousands of novels written each year; it’s not hard to imagine there are hits. On TV, there can only be a dozen or two new shows a year, and it’s unsurprising that most of them suck.
But sports is unscripted, and so they can get away with all kinds of corny impossible things, because those corny impossible things were not set up. The various media and taking heads types do their best to rob sports of this aspect, setting up storylines and angles galore. But I ignore them, and just watch the game, which stubbornly refuses to follow their anointed stories. The uncontrived beauty of physical excellence, often with emotional person stories in the background, added in with the unity and camraderie of fan bases, is the best thing going in the entertainment world these days.
And what a time to be a Boston sports fan. The Red Sox just won their second World Series this decade; this for a team where two a century would have made us happy. The Patriots, the former laughingstock of the league, have emerged as dominant, excellent, and pissed off — they’re punishing the rest of the league for simply being there, in part just because they can. The Pats traditionally were the nail; now they’re the hammer. The Celtics promise a resurrection of their halcyon days, and even little Boston College is ranked 2nd in the nation, the year after their coach left for an in-conference rival proclaiming there was a limit to how far BC could go.
Was there now?
It’s enough to make one dizzy. However, it’s also enough to turn me off to sports altogether. Much of the appeal of sports is hope: oh I hope I can see them win the big one…..if only he hit a homer here….come on, make that first down…..anticipation of great things is more a part of it than the great things. The great things happen rarely; that’s why they’re great. Baseball plays 162 games in a regular season, and 50 home runs is considered a huge deal; that’s less than a third of the games for a given player.
If the hugely successful becomes commonplace, one wonders — is this it? This is all I was hoping and waiting and pining for? The Sox have won, and that indeed made me cheer and holler and hug random strangers; but it didn’t change my life much. It did bring a happy smiling spirit to New England, but not much beyond that has shifted.
All the criticisms of the folks who imagine themselves too good for this sort of proletarian entertainment are suddenly ringing true, with a twist: it’s not “Why do you watch that, they just lose all the time.” It’s “Why watch, they just win all the time.” If this is as good as it gets, not only is it all downhill from here, but it’s not really worth anguishing through the bad times to get to the good.
I still appreciate the dramatic unscripted nature of sports, but along with giving up the various sports writers and reporters who suck all the joy out of it, perhaps I’ll find myself just watching any old baseball game, or whatever happens to be be on when I have an hour to kill. It’s not worth the anguish and the torment, should the Patriots or the Sox or someone start to suck unrelentingly. Time to find another thing; perhaps I’ll start reading more novels or something. We have positively minutes between Patriots touchdowns to do so.
I’ll always hate the Yankees, though.