Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sports as the original reality show

Another reason you should definitely start following at least one sports team is that each team is an excellent reality show (assuming you can find some redeeming quality in the actual sport, of which I've suggested one possibility).  Consider:

1.  The best reality shows are the ones where the participants truly act like themselves.  If producers are too controlling or too heavy-handed with editing, the proceedings become artificial to the point of defeating the whole point of a reality show.  With sports in an era of Twitter and 24 hour sports channels, athletes' true colors have a way of shining through.

Players are constantly getting themselves in trouble by making stupid racist jokes or openly discussing their plans to illegally drink underage.  More importantly, the nature of intense competition with millions of dollars and each player's historical legacy on the line tends to bring out one's true feelings to the surface.  A player who isn't actually devoted to the team will eventually loaf it to first base or not hustle back on defense.  Players who hate each other will eventually have a public blow-up, possibly even leading them to attack each other on the field.

2.  There is unbelievable historical continuity to sports.  Arsenal (a soccer team based in London) has been in operation since 1886.  "The Simpsons" has been around not even a fifth as long.  It would be like watching Survivor, only if your great-grandfather watched Survivor if he was a boy and taught your grandfather to love it, who taught your mother, who taught you.

3.  My lovely bride frequently likes to gently antagonize sports fans with a mock-slogan of "the sports team from my area is superior to the sports team from your area".  But the geographic element of following a sports team can make it special.  It's like following a TV show which you can watch live if you're willing to drive 20 minutes into the city.  Pittsburgh and Columbus practically shut down when the Steelers or Buckeyes are playing, and that kind of collective action breeds community.

4.  Eventually, assuming you don't follow any of the same teams I do, your team will win a championship.  It would, I imagine, be a tremendous payoff that has the show has been leading up to for 30 years.  And, if you choose a local team, you'd share the payoff with just about everyone at your office/school/etc.

5.  The unexpected can happen at any time.  For example, tonight, on a random mid-week night in the doldrums of the middle of a 162 game regular season, a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants named Matt Cain threw the 22nd perfect game in major league history.  There have been hundreds of thousands of games played, and only 22 of them have featured a pitcher throwing a perfect game (no hits or walks given up, no errors, no batters hit by a pitch).  Amazing.

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