Saturday, February 10, 2007


With the Super Bowl over and all the fanfare that comes with it dying down (or in Patriots country, already dead) I'd like to take this time to talk about professional sports. Something that's near and dear to lots of people, except me.

I've never been a big sports fan, particularly at the professional level. I've honestly just never seen the point. Fans get fanatical and do things like statistical analysis and dress up to keep track of their favorite teams. I just do not understand it.

Sports in general I get. There were times when I was an avid Frisbee player, a collegiate fencer, a 5-days-a-week weight lifter and a paint ball fiend. I get exerting your body in a quest to be better than you were before. I get competition. But I don't get many of the current popular sports and why people are paid millions upon millions of dollars to participate in them. Would I take a six million dollar deal to play on the Patriots? Yes sir, in a heartbeat. I'd take my money, do my best and go away after my contract scratching my head and wondering why anyone would want to give me that much money to chase a ball in tight pants.

There are a lot of potential debates in this essay and probably some hate mail but I'd like to skip all of that and move directly to my take on the current popular sports and what perhaps could make them more interesting. It shall go without saying (after I say it at least once of course) that I don't believe anyone should be paid massive amounts of money to play a game – be it football or HALO 2.

Football. This to me has always been a game that's loosely based on hunting pigs. You got this slippery ball that two groups of men are clambering after, just to get the honor of bringing it home. I expect there's a lot less ass-slapping and a lot more goring in real pig hunting than in football but honestly I've not done either myself. It certainly would be a lot more interesting to me if there was a live boar with seven inch tusks and a demonic hatred of all Mankind facing off against twenty guys with spears and loose bowels. Somehow I don't think that will happen any time soon.

I'd also find myself feeling sorry for the pig who never signed on for the gig and who wouldn't get a paycheck at all. What would really make football more interesting to me would be a no salary rule. Players could play for the money they'd make in endorsements and from fan donations. Then we'd have a game worth watching and players who cared about their fans.

Cricket. I don't know what the hell is going on here. This is the only professional sport I've ever witnessed that features snacks. It reminds me of playing soccer as an 11 year old and getting into the sliced oranges at halftime or half-game or whatever the hell it was. I don't even pretend to understand cricket but I will admit to a certain joy in watching it. I can pull in three of the most rabid football fans and watch as they scratch their heads for a change and wait for someone to hit someone else with that big stick.

Basketball. Okay, here's a sport that I do admit to a certain joy in watching. It's an elegant game of catch the ball and put it somewhere. But it's still a bunch of people, tall people mostly, chasing after a ball. I think this game would be a lot more interesting if the shot clock was reduced to say 12 seconds and the ball was set to explode on second 13. Not a bomb type explosion but more of an exploding cigar explosion. Just enough to make a grown man scream like a little girl and go running in the other direction for three or four steps before recovering his composure. That and widen the courts by about a hundred yards. Throwing some zero G in there would be nice or is that just my geek showing through.

Wrestling. I've seen real, Greco-Roman wrestling and this is something that for once doesn't involve balls. It's got two people trying their best to subdue each other. It's a test of strength, speed and endurance. Unfortunately this isn't what I'd call a popularly televised sport. Now WWF wrestling on the other hand, I just lump this under theater and move on.

Any Martial Art. Martial arts are for me a thing apart from other sports. There's just something about driving your body well past what many people would think of as good conditioning into doing things that most people would consider plain, flat out impossible. These folks have their bodies trained to the point where they do most of their thinking about 2.7 seconds after the fight is over. BAM! Tut... tut... say, did that gentleman just swing at me? Need a hand up mate?

Having fenced for a year I can say that nothing I've ever done compares to having your body react as a machine. Your eyes see something, it goes straight to the motor part of your brain, bypassing the consciousness completely and then to the bit of your body trained to do something. It's a true joy to experience and can be dead boring to watch. Watching a fencing match is like watching two people simper up to each other, make whooshing noises while blurring their hands in frenzied motion and then suddenly standing still and glancing about. Other martial arts are a bit more fun to watch when people get thrown about or do dangerous moves with extremely pointy things. Alas, I don't think this will ever catch on as a mainstream sport, unless someone introduces some balls that the opponents have to catch first before beating the crap out of each other.

Baseball. This is like a rational version of cricket. It's so rational that most of it involves sitting on a bench or standing around waiting for someone to do something with a ball. There are bursts of action followed by more sitting and standing. This goes on for a few hours and then the team who runs fastest and hits balls furthest wins. It is my heartfelt belief that one minor change would make this game infinitely more interesting to watch and to play. Simply place large numbers on the bases, 1-4 and then rearrange them before each at-bat in a random order. Watching players scramble about trying to find out where the hell third base got to would be wicked.

Hockey. Take the ball and flatten it, take the bats and flatten them, then take the noses of players and flatten them. Throw the whole mix on a near frictionless surface and mix liberally with some non-denominational martial arts and that to me is hockey. What would make this sport better? I've got two simple suggestions. The first would be to remove the skates and replace the ice with about three inches of clear, lime flavored Jello. That would add a certain element to the game, as well as providing for a snack a la cricket. Another suggestion would be to keep the ice, but require that any player take 3-4 shots of either vodka, tequila or blended whiskey before they hit the ice. Each time they entered the penalty box they'd also have to chug a beer.


Pete said...

You forgot NASCAR, the racing sensation in which cars chase each other in a biiiig circle five hundred times while people sit at home and hope that their favorite little shiny car doesn't crash on this here upcoming lap four-hundred-and-fifty-two.

I Do not Get televised sports either. Mostly, I don't try.

That said, I love going out in a big damn field and playing football, or baseball, or going to play tennis. They're fun, and I enjoy it. But when it gets more serious than some friends, a few gloves, and a couple of balls and a bat (i.e., by the time it's as serious as a little league game) then I've lost interest.

Silliest televised sport ever, even sillier than NASCAR, is Curling. I bet you can find some curling videos on YouTube. Lunatic sport and yet...hard not to watch.

Lucien said...

This is funny, so I laughed.
I do think, however, you two are missing the one crucial element in all this that makes these games not only palatable, but fun to watch - Beer. You see with beer, these games become interesting and meaningful, and you will find yourself discussing them with other folks who know the secret to watching. When your standing around the water cooler, talking about sports, what you're really standing around saying is:

"Cool! We both got ripped last night, and the only excuse we needed was to watch a few guys run around after a ball."

I admit I do watch playoff games, etc, but I don't need an excuse to get ripped, I'm Irish.

Besides there are only two perfect sports - real sports - Boxing, and figure skating. I love them both.

SJW said...

When I first read your article I couldn’t stop laughing. The suggested new playing rules seem absurd and could never be accepted in our traditional sport’s society. But reflecting on the changes in sports over the last couple of decades, one thing remains constant: the rules will change in order to hold the interests of the fans and make a profit for the owners. The following changes come to mind: (1) adding the designated hitter rule in baseball to eliminate a weak hitting pitcher; (2) decreasing the shot clock interval in basketball to force teams to take more shots; and (3) adding the shootout rule in hockey to eliminate tie games. In each case, the rules were changed to make the sport more entertaining and draw bigger crowds. Let’s take a look at two of your suggestions. If we eliminate football salaries and make players solely dependent on endorsements and fan donations, no one can accuse them of inflated paychecks. On the other hand, only the high profile superstars will command mega level endorsements and force the other players to create their own businesses to generate revenue. Even worse, many of the top players will flock to the giant media centers, such as Los Angeles and New York, to solicit major endorsement contracts. Your other suggestion to add a “Zero G” environment to basketball could add a whole new dimension to how the games are played. Just imagine the score for dunking the ball could be based on the difficulty of the acrobatic maneuver, just like gymnastics. And with today’s technology, creating a Zero G environment is feasible although costly. Who really can predict what the game will look like 10 years from now?

Pete said...

My favorite change in Basketball is that between the 1970's and now, their shorts have gotten longer.

Whoever came up with that idea, thank you. I lived in mortal fear watching these seven foot tall guys running and bouncing around in shorts that would have otherwise worked on Hooters waitresses.

ArsGeek said...

Sports has always been a sore subject with me. Not so much because of my stance on sports in general but because of how I feel after I play sports. Any sport.

I have watched curling and it is singularly peculiar in nature. However the game was invented in Scotland, home of other intriguing sports such as Golf and Decapitate the English. I also happen to have a statistically significant portion of Scots blood in me, so I heartily approve. Now where's my haggis?

As for the beer aspect of sports. I don't really get into drinking much in general, let alone while I'm watching sports although as a survival strategy I could see it. I think beer has also lead to one of the more interesting sides of professional sports. The hooligan. I can't see many fans hopped up on gatoraid and tofu-dogs heading off to smite supporters of their rival teams. Add beer into the mix though and suddenly pounding the snot out of someone who's face is painted red instead of green makes more sense.

As for the shorts issue, I don't think any mane should be allowed to run around in short shorts. Ever.

Pete said...

Unless he's Richard Simmons. Then, I'm not going to get close enough to stop him. He can run willy nilly in little shorts all he wants.

I'm not sure how using sports could properly attract women, so there goes THAT use for sports. "I'm a large sweaty man who is occasionally slapped on the bum by other large sweaty men as we head off a field of muddy grass and go to shower together. Can I buy you a drink?"