Sports with blinders

The Oldest Box ScoreMay 19, 2004. Sacramento Kings at Minnesota Timberwolves. NBA Western Conference Semifinals, Game 7.

Kerrie and I sat in an Old Chicago in Sioux Falls, surrounded by Timberwolves fans, blasted out by cheers and pummeled by the sound of thunder sticks. The Timberwolves won the crucial game, 83-80. The score sounds ugly. The game was exciting.

The Wolves went on to lose to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. That same year, the Pacers lost out to the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, thus barring my team’s entrance to the Finals for the first time since 2000. It was a summer of near misses in NBA basketball. High expectations, crushed.

The real significance of the game, however, is personal. That night, sitting there in front of a television that was hung from the ceiling, nursing several beers and inching closer to my goal of World Beer Tour completion, I watched a sports contest all the way through, from start to finish, uninterrupted, with my full, unbridled attention.

I haven’t done it since them.

I’m a sports fan poseur.

I don’t watch sports. But I’m a sports fan.

I’m attached to the words and numbers that create the bare bones of a sports contest. I’m latched on to the box score that serves as a numerical blueprint for reproduction of the game. I know names, not people; stats, not performances. I’m ashamed, but yet, I’m comfortable with it.

I don’t watch sports with an attentive eye. I have them on, sure, and I watch them for the most part, but I’m always focusing on something else. And, realistically, even those times are rare, what with the low level of television time I afford myself. I find that I don’t need to watch an entire game to get the gist of the contest. I listen to sports radio and get the blanks all filled in.

I’m a sports fan dedicated to the standings. I celebrate wins without seeing a pitch, a throw, or a single basket. I receive text messages and lament losses without even knowing how the loss transpired or if it was even a good game.

I live my sports life through newspapers, much like those years before Sportscenter lived, listening only to snippets on the radio, yet knowing enough that Pat Neshek should have been voted into the All Star game.

I’ve seen only two highlights from the Dolphins this year. I’ve watched only about 20 complete innings all Twins season. I’ve been known to go until the first nationally televised game without even knowing the play by play of the Pacers’ wins and losses.

I love sports. But I don’t know why I don’t take the trouble of watching them. I mean, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been at work and someone has come up to me to talk about a previous night’s game. I know all of the key plays. I know who won. I know who scored, and what it means, and how the standings are lined up and how the playoffs are falling into place. But when he says “Did you see that play?” I simply shake my head and avert my eyes.

“No,” I have to admit. “I didn’t see the game.”

I don’t know why – I’m fine with it any other time. I simply don’t make time to watch the games; they take too long and are riddled with boredom and long winded commercial breaks. To me, seeing sports live has ruined the feel of a television game. I’m so easily distracted while watching it on the small screen. I don’t get the same feeling I do when in the Metrodome or at the Arena.

So I live my sports life through stats, scouring the standings and adding up home runs and comparing scoring averages instead of watching the subtle footwork and guile and teamwork that makes sports fun.

I haven’t watched a single television game straight through. For over three years. I’m a poseur. A fraud. A fake. A sports fan with no sports, a paper champion, a slave to the reporters and a cause for worry.

But to me, I’m okay with it. The 1910 baseball season wasn’t televised. Only your local team was heard on the radio. And sports were still as rich as they are today.

It makes me think – what is it about sports that’s important? Is it the physical act, the actual movement of sport and the visual aspect that encompasses nearly every television at some point in time? Or is it the underlying story, the results and the hard facts and the relationships that aren’t even brought out during the live event. Is it the act or the result that’s important?

And if the act’s what matters, why is so much focus placed on the results?

This was lovingly handwritten on September 17th, 2007