Monday, June 19, 2006

Last Minute Sports Fan

I wouldn't say that I'm a Johnny-come-Lately. Although I suppose no one thinks of themselves that way. This is how I'd put it - I simply don't (yet?) have the discipline to follow most sports regularly enough during the season. In almost any sport. It's not that I don't find it interesting, it's that I find it boring.

Now obviously it's a no-brainer that playoff games in any sport will be more exciting than regular season games. Once the playoffs kick-in, I'm invariably drawn in by the sheer intensity of the action. This urgency is what I find lacking in regular season games - it's just tougher to get excited about a game that (at least on the surface of things) doesn't matter as much.

But this is the thing: I'm convinced that these games do matter. It's in the watching of these regular season games that you get to really know the players, the teams, the tendencies, the whole thing. And it's this knowledge that makes the playoffs such a special time for real sports fans. I think that the average sports fan gets something close to the same amount of enjoyment out of a regular game that I get out of a playoff game. And they probably enjoy a playoff game twice as much as I do. This must be corrected.

The problem is, I get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of sports news available at any given time. You're telling me I'm supposed to watch 18 editions of SportsCenter, make my home page, plus read the sports section of the daily paper....AND have time to watch games?

I honestly don't see how people do it.

And I've tried.

Not that hard, but I have tried. I read Sports Guy. I read Game of Shadows. Hmm. That might have been be the extent of it...

I should try harder. Why? It's not like I owe it to anyone to become a more knowledgeable sports fan. But this is the thing: I am certain that I would be a happier sports fan were I to be more knowledgeable. Doesn't it stand to reason that if I had a better sense of the narrative of any given team/league/player etc, that I would enjoy the playoffs THAT MUCH MORE? As it stands, my usual routine goes something like this:

• notice that it's the playoffs/finals in some sport (currently NBA - how much fun are these finals? one-point overtime games? the best!)
• call my biggest sports-fan friend for a briefing on all i need to know to watch said series
• enjoy series
• promptly forget about said sport
• repeat

Hmm, when I put it this way, the system seems fairly self-contained and functional. Yet every year it leaves me somewhat unfulfilled. As if watching these games was a marginal participation (at best) in the world of sports. True, I may have seen some games, but I've missed out on what makes them valuable. How can I appreciate that (whoever) is playing the best (whatever) of the season, or they finally worked out that kink in their game which kept them from performing to the best of their capabilities? The only way that I can do that is to take my friend's word for it. And it's just not as much fun that way.

One other note on the problem with my approach: the "good game" problem. I don't closely follow any given team. Because I grew up outside of Boston, my heart will always be with Boston teams. [Note: this was not always the case. Because my parents came from both Northern and Southern California, I felt free to cherry-pick my favorite teams from their hometowns which conveniently meant that I got to root for some great teams during their heyday (the 49ers, the Lakers, whoever). My sports-fan friend will not let me forget this. This is among the many reasons that I don't tend to return his calls promptly.] However, I have lived in New York for the past 10 years and have lost touch with the goings on of my teams. And I just can't become a New York sports fan. Sorry. I'd root for the Lakers over the Yankees any day.

Moving on - the good game problem. Because I haven't been following the season in any meaningful way - I haven't formed any opinions about any of the teams that I may end up watching play. Therefore, all I can root for is a "good" (ie, close) game. And while I'm sure this is a "sportsman"-like attitude, I can't help thinking that this is not what most sports fans think about. Don't they all have strongly formed opinions about all the teams in the league and don't they inevitably take sides? Well I want to take sides. I'm sick of just rooting for overtime or last minute drama. I'm certain that there are many more minutes worth enjoying than just the last.


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