The Sports Attraction, Issue 44

What is the attraction of spectator sports? A good friend challenged me to write about professional sports and the role they play in today’s society. So, this is a question that I have been considering for some time now. In my lifetime I have gone through different phases:

  • In my late teens and during my twenties, watching professional sports was very, very  low on my agenda, except for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and a sunny afternoon in Jarry Park 
  • In my thirties I wanted to watch lots of football and every hockey  game that was on television. By the way, for non-Canadian readers hockey means ice hockey. Is there any other kind?
  • When I hit forty I watched everything. Curling, golf, hockey, football, baseball, I mean I watched everything except cricket. To this day, I don’t understand scoring in that game. And tea as a refreshment? It has to be beer!
  • Later, I was addicted to the National Football League. I  would waste my Sundays watching every NFL game in our coverage area. Also,  I watched every Montréal Canadiens game going.
  • There was one year that I saw more than 60 hockey games live, either in Ottawa or Montréal
  • At 60, I found my interest waning

Now, I doin’t have the patience for the in-period commercial breaks that ruin the flow of a good hockey game. It takes hours to watch the last two minutes of most basketball or NFL games. There are far too many boring in-season games in all sports. I am just embarrassed that I wasted my time watching  golf and curling. Just how long does it take to play a baseball game?

What continues to attract me

Don’t get me wrong, though. I still like spectator sports. However,  I am much more selective. While hockey’s in-period commercial breaks still drive me crazy,  the Stanley Cup playoffs are the greatest spectacle of all major league championships anywhere, period. International rugby is my new favourite thing to watch! I will take time to watch other-worldly athletes such as Patrick Mahomes or Faf DeKlerk, perform their magic.  The Euro and the World Cup of Football provide hours of dramatic entertainment. 

Also, I would never miss an opportunity to:

  • Experience an English Premiership Game in a heritage stadium such as Selway Park, Craven Cottage or Anfield 
  • Go to hockey game featuring Montreal’s fiercest rival, the Boston Bruins
  • Attend a NFL game in either Seattle or New Orleans
  • I need to get to World Cup or Six Nations rugby match, better still  see Scotland against anyone at Murrayfield, Edinburg
International rugby match featuring New Zealand’s fabled All-Blacks.

And others?

It seems that I have answered the question from a personal perspective. However, there have to be many more reasons for the plethora of sports channels and streaming services dedicated to professional sports. And

  • There are baseball fanatics that chart every game they watch
  • And then there are baseball fans who like the beer and crackerjack 
  • NFL fans that dive into statistics and analysis of every team 
  • But also, many spend the game at the tail-gate party and never make it into the stadium
  • Game and match outcomes are often predictable but actual results can be dramatically different
  • Athletes in any sport can stun with amazing performances 
  • Attachments to a childhood team grows into broader interests. 
  • Fill in what sports means to you

There is no one answer

So, what is the attraction of spectator sports?There is no one answer.  It brings hours of escape from the trials and worries of everyday life. Athletes personal dramas are shared,  their great accomplishments lived vicariously. I have chosen to write this piece now as disaster has befallen my friend’s favourite sports team. Twenty-five members of  the Vancouver Canucks  entourage have been diagnosed with Covid19. 

The Canucks were having a tough season but it is a club with much future promise. Every game played was important in the development of that promise. In a way this event is a metaphor for pandemic life. The social development of children, the engagement of youth with the world, and the peaceful passage of life has been put on hold. 

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. 

Karl Marx

Sports is the new religion.

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