Since beginning this site, I have been paying very close attention to the sporting world, almost everyday. Even as I’ve relaxed my writing frequency over the past few weeks, I still keep myself aware of what is going on. Constantly immersed in sports, I have found myself asking a question that, in my lifetime, had never entered my consciousness.
Why the hell do I love sports so much?
I mean, seriously. It’s just a game, right? It’s not as though the results of these games, which I spend so much time watching and studying, actually matter. It takes up an inordinate amount of my time. Supporting Philadelphia teams has almost certainly added years to my life due to stress and disappointment. A friend suggested that I should just leave it alone – after all, why try to explain love?
Sadly, the ability to avoid analytic thought just isn’t in my nature. Hell, I’ve even tried to figure out why that’s the case, which was truly a fruitless endeavor.
Now, I can diagnose one of the reasons that I love to watch sports – I loved to play them. As a matter of fact, there are very few times in life where my head is more clear than when I am in the midst of a good football game. I mean, I just love to play competitive games in general; I talk shit during rummy, for God’s sake. But that, in essence, makes me wonder if my constant obsession with watching sports is just a sad case of vicarious living. And it still doesn’t explain why I love playing sports as much as I do.
Now, before you decide to turn away from this fairly annoying self-analysis, there is a point here. (Editor’s note: THANK GOD!). It occurred to me while talking with a good friend about the stock market. For the most part, his banter about the Dow and the shifting market and what-not induced instant daydreaming. But as I occasionally checked back in to his dissertation, I realized something very important – it was very much like a game to him. Buy this stock, sell that one. Gather your information, create a strategy, and get at it. Maybe the goal of the stock market is to make money, but the process of doing so becomes very much like sport. In a later conversation, another friend of mine compared it to gambling. The stock market, at its core, is really just a game. A game that dictates a whole lot of the culture we live in, and one we’re losing right now, but a game nonetheless.
By George, I think I’ve got it.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much of life boils down to sport. Politicians getting elected and running their campaigns are competing against one another. They create strategies they think will get them elected. They go against one another in debates. They tack add-ons to bills they wouldn’t otherwise support to get what they want. They try to please the people that helped them to get elected. It’s all a game.
Think about many of the institutions that societies traditionally have, and you’ll find that many of them are completely fueled by competition and are conquered by those that best “play the game.” The problem is, very often it is this sporting nature that causes many of society’s problems. Constantly trying to make more and more money breeds obese amounts of greed and creates rifts in social classes. Worrying so much about getting elected and pleasing the people in one’s “political corner” often blurs the real issues facing society and makes it less likely they will be properly treated. (I, by no means, am any sort of political expert. My point is that “the game” in many of society’s institutions distract otherwise intelligent people from the real issues facing their position).
I always wondered why the business and celebrity sides of sports bothered me. I never considered that sports were one of the truly pure ways people are able to satiate their competitive nature, and the constant greed and showmanship that have entered athletics diminishes that purity. I’m not saying that athletes shouldn’t try to make their money and that there is no place for the business side of sports; my point is that it shouldn’t be the primary focus. Athletic competition has always given us a healthy way to compete, one that entertains the masses, creating heroes out of men who play with bats, balls and pucks. It inspires people, and it binds communities by giving them all someone to root for.
You see, we can’t help it. Those of us who love watching the games we do need to get our fix somewhere. It’s in our blood. Judge us if you will, but at least we know where our competitive nature is best appeased – on a field, or a court, or a sheet of ice, where at the end of the day, a win is just a win, and a loss is just a loss.
And that’s where it ends.