Lemon: Pro sports are … kinda dumb
Vail, CO Colorado
Professional sports are a social evil. More than gambling. More than … I see no redeeming value in watching grown men and women chase some spherical (in varying shapes) object around a field, court or fairway or drive some type of vehicle really fast in a circle. We spend billions in the United States watching these games. We spend even more time glued to television sets for hours on end. I watched the last three minutes (which took about 45 minutes) of the Super Bowl this year and I saw the whole game. So why waste the previous three hours when something much more productive could have been accomplished?
Free-agency bidding is about to start for professional football, free agents in baseball have demanded and won millions in arbitration, David Beckham (some English soccer player) was signed by the Los Angeles Galaxy for a mere $250 million, the average salary in the National Basketball Association is $4 million, and the Colorado Avalanche hockey team is paying some guy from Sweden $5 million for a year (but more importantly, for the next month) to come and maybe play (yeah, I know he played for them before, won a Stanley Cup or two).
The Tribune Company is selling the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field separately. By allowing some other corporation naming rights, they expect that the stadium price will go up. And they can foist on the good citizens of Chicago another bond issue or tax to renovate the walls of ivy (named something besides Wrigley? What a sacrilege!), and the Cubs still won’t win the World Series.
My husband tries to explain to me that watching the games during the season gives him a better understanding of the chances of this team or that advancing in the playoffs or championships or world championships. The problem is that when he is watching the game, it is impossible to have a conversation or to get anything else done. He cannot miss a play. When I am watching my television shows, I can multi-task: I can iron, pay bills, balance my check book, send e-mails, or talk to my kids. But he doesn’t even gamble on the games, so how does it benefit him? His watching allows television networks to charge even more outrageous prices to advertisers so they can try to convince him to drink some insipid beer or to run out and buy a new razor every week so some girl will fall off a treadmill (which presupposes that he would actually go to the gym). And his watching provides no real basis of analysis on whether a particular team will win or lose.
Some famous sports writer for ESPN this past season bet his wife that he would be more accurate in predicting the winners and losers for the football season. So he watched tens of hours of games, poured over statistics, and culled injury reports while she based her calls on the color of the uniforms, the names of the mascots, and whether she particularly liked the city or the weather in the city. Her absolute randomness beat his analysis by a huge margin. And at the end of the day, how did it really matter?
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Sports and video games have created a generation of watchers, not doers. I am sure that there must be some correlation to weight gain as a population over the last 25 years, and the emergence of ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN News, ESPN Classic, ESPN SP, ESPN etc. Maybe by watching you get inspired to do (i.e. the once a year family football game after the dinner and the two Turkey Day games on television). But I see no relationship between the hours of watching and the number of times one goes to the gym.
There is little societal benefit – although proponents try to argue that downtown stadiums revive neighborhoods, give opportunities to under-privileged etc. At least in gambling and the lottery the government gets their cut up front. By the time professional sports corporations pay the salaries, the advertisers, and the like, even the profits on their tax bills are heavily discounted. Put the tax bills the citizen bear to build the stadiums, we taxpayers are paying them to make or lose money depending on how good their accountants are. Maybe more teams should be public, so at least the fans are paying themselves.
I won’t convince my husband of the waste of time, so I just ask that he tells me when the last five minutes of whatever championship happens to be on that month so I can say I watched the game.
Heather Lemon of Eagle-Vail writes a biweekly column for the Vail Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.