Never: in fact, I won’t even stay in the room. Well, maybe as background noise when I’m knitting. Sometimes, but only if I have a player/team/country to cheer for. Yes! Anywhere! Anytime!
“Huh?” you might be thinking. “What *are* you talking about? And why do you keep changing your answer?”
Sports is the subject and, strictly speaking, my answers change only when the question does. The questions all start the same way . . .
Will you watch . . .
and then go on to specify a sport. Like this: “Will you watch boxing?” And the answer is . . .
Never: in fact, I won’t even stay in the room.
Hockey? Tennis? Football? American football?
Well, maybe as background noise when I’m knitting.
Golf? Baseball? Volleyball? Olympic races that require no special knowledge to tell who’s winning?
but only if I have a player/team/country to cheer for.
Yes! Anywhere! Anytime!
This all came to a head in my head last week while the 2021 World Series was on. Now, I would say that I enjoy watching baseball. I love the highlight reels: watching a finely executed double play or a player diving to make an impossible catch is uh-may-ZING. I’ve watched the 30-minute recaps of Blue Jays’ games. I loved to attend a handful of Spring Training games in Phoenix in the Before Time. But although the World Series is the game’s iconic championship series, I watched only a few innings in passing. Why? Because I had no dog in this hunt — I mean, At-alanta versus Houston-we-have-a-problem? Who cares? — and it turns out I need a dog if I’m investing more time than those astounding highlight reels require.
Yet at the same time, I was glued to the set for a men’s curling game. A clash of two titans at the height of their powers, perhaps? Not so much. It was the B-side men’s final: a down-to-the-wire conflict between a young Kingston team I’d never heard of and Glenn Howard, who I’ve heard about for 30 years.
A Canadian championship, then? A bonspiel weighted with tradition, perchance? Not really. It was the Canadian Curling Pre-Trials and the prize was the very last berth in the Canadian Olympic Trials, the winner of which will get a berth in the Olympics. No, there’s no way around it: This game was a long way from glory. Nor did I particularly care who won: no Westerners were involved.
But it was curling.
So that got me to thinking about my categories for sports-watching. I could identify two, right away:
- Ones I would watch if I had some passing understanding of the game and cared who won – like golf and tennis tournaments with Canadians in contention, and volleyball with grandchildren in contention.
- Ones I would watch, period – like, well, curling. OK, a category of one.
But a few minutes of reflection made it clear that I had to add a third category:
- Ones I would watch if I cared enough about the event (think hockey for the Stanley Cup final, baseball for the World Series, and swimming, running, and rowing at the Olympic Games). Include in this category select social/cultural events (think football, but only for the Grey Cup and Super Bowl).
And then there were the sports that I would glance at for the exciting bits in replay while knitting in front of the TV: Think hockey and baseball through their seemingly endless and weirdly overlapping seasons.
Finally, there were sports that usually drove me out of the room: Some because of people getting smacked up the head on purpose (think boxing), some because I can’t see the plays as they’re forming (think basketball), some because I can’t see the plays as they’re forming AND nothing ever happens (think soccer), some because it’s horses.
I had hoped for a neat 2×2 matrix presentation — Maybe “cares about outcome” paired with “has a faint idea of what’s happening”? — but that meta-analysis awaits another day and maybe another analyst. What emerged instead was a pie chart, using the dozen or so sports mentioned above to calculate the proportions.
And that’s just considering the sports that come to mind. To my mind. If I consider a broader list, the picture would be even more lopsided: These all fall into the “Never” category.
archery bowling bungee jumping cricket cycling
darts fencing figure skating fishing
gymnastics hang gliding ice skating jet skiing
judo karate kickboxing pool rock climbing
roller skating scuba diving skateboarding skiing
sky diving snowboarding sumo wrestling surfing
table tennis taekwondo water skiing
weight lifting wind surfing
Anyway, I got this far and then my favourite indoor activity — Chasing after what my subconscious gets up to, overnight — took over. Watching a grandkid, or a favourite player/team, or a lone Canadian in a herd of international competitors isn’t really watching the sport: It’s celebrating the person/people. Similarly, watching a highlight reel isn’t really watching the sport(s) represented: It’s being awed by human excellence in the damnedest things. That line of thinking generated a new pie chart.
Whichever analysis (sic) is right, I expect team owners and broadcasters hope that with respect to being a watcher of sports, I’m like curling: a category of one. Otherwise, they should seriously consider a new line of work. And I begin to think that one of my brothers-in-law is onto something.
Why would you watch a sport
when you could be playing it instead?
Well, except curling. It’s all good, all the time.
For more on curling: