It is a hard enough time trying to live my own life, televised sports aside. It’s difficult: just try filling up the day with activities that are of your own design.
TV entertainment, at large, is no help with this pursuit. It is, in fact (IN FACT: I have to put the blame somewhere), the principle obstacle to it. Among the many arresting, come-hither faces television programming makes, the most tantalizing for many—my own shameful, feckless self, included—is sports.
The NBA Finals transported me out of the utter boredom that otherwise was my languid, lonely weeknight evening and delivered me the kind of solitary stimulation whose only rival is that unutterable height of masculine indignity: the video game.
But where did it take me really, these NBA Finals? And what exactly did it ask of me once it plopped me down?
It took me three time zones away—as many tax-brackets to be sure—and impel me to exist vicariously through other fellow humans who have not a scant idea or care that I exist.
Why should he?
Unlike me, Mr. James apparently has a life of his own to keep him busy—hence this arrangement in the first place.
At this point, it may sound like I am dogmatically opposed to entertainment in general (to anticipate a criticism), but that would be only partially true.
A movie, like, say, a book (they exist!), begins somewhere, says its piece and is over. Voila and ta ta, you let two hours blissfully slip away with little industry to show for it. Nonetheless, the movie is over. The movie is kaput. You can go ahead and get on with your own business now if you like, but sports never goes belly-up, does it? They never even end—there is always the next game, the next series, the next season (maybe you have noticed…).
It is not the time lost watching the game that is the tragedy (although this is pointlessness-squared, and, frankly, there is not all that much time to spend). It is the time spent in listless anticipation of the next game wherein the calamity lies. There is no shortage of better things to worry about in the world, believe me.
The person who might be described as a “fan”—although I admit to feeling a pang of guilt for hectoring them with this term, but, having apparently forgotten the word’s etymology, they seem take no offense to it—has been infected by sports entertainment. The mind-rot extends well beyond the temporary insanity that axiomatically accompanies the viewing of these frenzied pageants. “The game,” the thing that once upon a time was the escape from the banal and tedious hours of the lonely evening, now becomes the principle supplier of the tedium and nail biting in the meantime.
Ergo Sports Center.
I can’t help but feel embarrassed for Faith Hill (or Hank Williams Jr. or the Dixie Chicks or whoever) when I hear it sung—you know the jingle: “I’ve been waiting all day for Sunday Night!”
Does she mean to tell me my whole day has been building toward a blood-sport television program? It’s not even consolation anymore; the day is to be organized around it! It’s a bit like gleefully looking forward to watching other people in the sheets.
And don’t, I beg you, tell me this nonsense brings out the best in people or brings them together. Tell that instead to the tens of thousands who now choose to sit in “Family Zone” seating at NFL games to avoid a fist-fight with a drunk over a loyalty to the wrong team, or a lack of zeal even for the right one. Maybe there is something compelling about the number 42 or Michael Sam, but for every Jackie Robinson story there is a John Rocker and Riley Cooper and Kobe Bryant and Garrison Hearst and so many more to be sure, holding down the hatred for now like so much sour milk. And, mind you, these are only athletes who have said hateful things.
How is it, then, that this caravel of primeval loathing keeps its anchor under a monsoon of unchecked praise—praise issued on account of even-handedness and for providing our children with good “role-models” no less? There are more than a few athletes I would call outright criminals if that tag did not so sinuously fit on the team owners as to make the players’ crimes almost too piffling to be worth mentioning. Which, in your estimation, is more appalling: that Ray Rice punched his wife unconscious and dragged her around the Revel Hotel lobby by her hair? Or that the official Ravens Twitter account, seeking to smooth “Little Ray’s” brand back to that of game-time idol, tweeted: “@Ravens Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.”?
Did you hear that young, impressionable men of America?
It was—once again—her fault.
From the theft of money by Little League presidents in Hawaii to Wisconsin, to the shady business dealings of pro-team owners (yes Mr. Cuban, quite a slippery slope there indeed) to the flat out, knife-in-teeth piracy that is the dealings of the NCAA in all its shadowy forms, these bodies have no shame and brand themselves as if they have no guilt.
Lastly, and with the above in mind, I have heard all I can bear about “locker room culture” as some kind of relativistic, Margret Mead-esque excuse for anything. It’s a debasement to the language in the first place. And in the second, is that really what a man does? Dawn plastic armor and fight make-believe bad guys from the next town over? I don’t think so.
I mention this just as a point of comparison: My four-year-old nephew dresses up like Iron-man on Sundays sometimes and shoots lasers out of his fists. Say what you like of me if I join in. It is not much of a game for an adult, but at least I’m the one playing.