Why Do I Care So Much About Sports?

Posted on December 5, 2011 by

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[Edited 2/20/13:  New Thoughts on the Subject]

The complementing question to the one above is:  why can’t I care about world, national, state, local, community issues that actually affect me?

Though I like to think I know something about important world, national, state, local, community, issues, I don’t.  I still have a lot to learn.

I’d like to say that I know more about important stuff affecting people, but then more often than not, I find myself either on a Chicago Bulls basketball message board community or some UCLA Bruins blog searching with a virtual fine comb for news and opinions from people who post things there.  Key word in that last sentence is “community.”  I kinda “know” the people who post, and the opinions they’re bound to post.  I spend time in that “community.”  And with that “community” I’ve come to expect and predict people to say certain things;  I’ve come to expect a modicum of predictability.  And even with that predictability, you think, I’d get tired of going on there.

Yet there I still am, in the middle of finals week, searching for every comment, seeing if something riles me up to the point where I feel the need to respond.

This takes up a chunk of time every day.

Then after I snap out of it, I go back to wondering about how I would probably know more about the specifics of “Obamacare”, how banking works if only I’d spent as much time paying attention to the news rather than “wasted” it on analyzing whether or not Caron Butler fits with the Chicago Bulls as a shooting guard.

As recently as just a few minutes ago, I likened my sports fandom to an addiction.  Addiction is a strong word I am aware, but it really felt like it.  Sports fandom is an addiction.

I’d spend all this time microanalyzing what I saw and trying to understand what others themselves microanalyzed and saw for nothing really.  I wasn’t going to make money or discover anything new if I throttled one of DuckIII’s arguments about the significance of Ben Gordon.

The people making the big decisions wouldn’t give a fart about what analysis The 6ft Hurdle brings (that is unless they’ve been reading the boards for years and have learned to hierarchize).

Yet, a few hundred others and I are dedicated to providing up to the minute updates and opinions on anything related to the Chicago Bulls (and other off-topic stuff)—even during the non-news-producing now-over NBA lockout.

Maybe on the surface it appears that there isn’t much to talk about with just one sports team.

But, since we all in this particular online community have been talking to each for some almost 10 years about the Bulls (yes, post-Michael Jordan, even way before Derrick Rose), and have a plethora of tools and resources to peer over and make topics of discussion: statistics, rumor mills, DVRs to record games, youtube to upload DVRd games, there’s just no limit to what people pick out as a topic of discussion. People talk about (top player) Derrick Rose’s love life, they analyze his speech patterns, they post funny GIFs about head coaches, they analyze salaries, and spend a lot of time defending and arguing about other players the Bulls can acquire.

They also find a lot of things to talk about on a certain UCLA Bruins blog.  In the midst of bad seasons from the basketball and football teams, the discourse generated by the bloggers and commenters centers around firing people that they don’t even talk to. Yet I find myself reading each and every comment on there.  Each item posted becomes “news.”

Addictions to these “news” items isn’t just limited to me and other sports fans.

I once had a conversation with an Anthropology friend about her other interests aside from her research topic.  Despite her progressive-orientation towards changing things and maintaining an academic identity of appearing knowledgeable and “on point”, she said a guilty pleasure:  following fashion and celebpop news.

Following the lives of these celebrities that was interesting.  She couldn’t get enough of it.

Checking out celebpop sites is pretty big stuff.  I’m not sure about how much traffic is generated at those sites, but I witnessed it wherever I worked.  When I was at some temp agency, I saw a co-employee quite regularly checking out news from PerezHilton.com, or Popsugar.  At even some nonprofits, the items from the site was sometimes a topic of the most spirited conversation of the day.  What they do on these sites is post news about the latest Britney Spears slip-up or photos of Lady Gaga doing something “scandalous.”

I don’t know too much about these sites, but hearing friends talk about them, the addictive content sound like the same kind of stuff that keeps me looking at the Chicago Bulls sports message boards and UCLA Bruins blog:

  • there’s rumor mills about well-known characters
  • plenty of room for weighing in on the actions  of characters with your own analysis and judgment.

The key seems to be “well-known characters” and “judgment” of the characters.  Characters.  Characters with storylines and trajectories to follow.  Characters with storylines are something that seems to be lacking in news stories that don’t revolve around celebrities or other types of popular figures.

We seem to be hardwired to following storylines and trajectories.  We get this fix from celebrities and popular figures.

And this is where I will answer the question as to why I can’t focus on information about important issues.  There’s too little storyline behind any of it.  And if there is, the characters are too plentiful and are not clear.

News about happenings to ordinary people in the Middle East, Africa, Asia become nothing to me.  Nothing.  That’s bad.

For example:  I knew he was a symbol of oppression, and was a frequent topic of informal conversation during classes for several months.  However, witnessing Muammar Gaddafi’s death on BBC News in September was a completely emotionless event for me. And it was something I forgot about after a day, even though I know it was “kind of a big deal.”  I’d only superficially followed the story and its facts.

The bottomline is:  I don’t feel like I “owned” or “knew” the story the way I could “own” or “know” the story of how Michael Jordan got cut from his basketball team.

Personally for me, the stories and trajectories of people in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, hell even people in the various communities I live in, if they aren’t within the sphere of interest of sports, school, or other topics of interest, they just end up being random little tidbits of information that get lost in my mental world piled and occupied with large structures of information dedicated to sports, family, friends, and school.

I see tons of posts on Facebook about important stuff that affects us.  And gets ignored frequently.

That link was posted by an f-book friend, and only got 2 shares.  Kinda sad considering that this bill deals with freedoms and human rights and all that stuff.

I try my best to just post on important political and social issues, and limit f-book postings to items that I think would hit people hard.

A lot of my f-book friends end up posting about sports.

On a deeper level, sports teams and sports figures are really just extensions of ourselves.

Their storylines and trajectories can be “our” storylines and trajectories if we so choose, but they can also be amusing to follow.  Celebpop is all about storylines and trajectories of characters not necessarily we’d want to call our storylines and trajectories, but they are amusing to follow.  Political appeal is also primarily about storylines and trajectories, that we both might want to call “ours” if we so happen to like whoever is in power.

If our sports teams represent extensions of our selves, we talk about them usually in defense of them as if we were defending our very own honor.  We may identify with certain players, coaches, managers, and they in turn represent our values.  The coaches, managers, and athletes are like our avatars.  With players, coaches, managers we don’t identify with, we distance them from representing the identity of the team.  Exhibit A: UCLA Bruins fans and what they thought about former UCLA Bruins Coach Karl Dorrell.  Exhibit B:  UCLA Bruins fans and what they think about current Athletic Director Dan Guerrerro.  Those fans make fun of individuals if they seem benign, but since they perceive each of those two pieces to be important, fans have gone out of their way to call these two guys “cancerous” and “destructive.”

If storylines and trajectories of well-known, it’s because people give them lots of meanings.  Public characters drive compelling storylines that become important to the point that people want to donate their time and energy to consuming news and other tidbits about the team.

I don’t use the word “donate” lightly because people do give their time and lots of money away for this, and it’s amazing to me how much of that energy could be used to help more than some team owners make profit off their plaything sports teams.  For example, with all the money from one game, we could save a hip-hop program for youths in LA, rather than see them spend a lot of energy fighting tooth and claw just to raise $15,000 by Friday.

If you look at it, sports events are the best community-organizing events.  People come out in large numbers, very enthusiastic, yelling, wearing their paraphernalia.  They pay 30 bucks for the pleasure to sit and watch a bunch of guys they think they know, but really don’t tackle, hit, and run into each other.  I honestly do think nonprofits can rip a page from all this.

It’s unabashed, shameless passion we Americans will throw into our sports.  I guess in this age of information and misinformation, good economy, bad economy, good politician, bad politician, sports are the only thing that we as a public can really be sure we know something about.  The bits we know about sports figures, celebrities are the bits of information that we feel we can make our own.