For me, watching televised sports is a lot like reading fictionalized first-person historical narratives. I’m enthusiastic at first, but after ten minutes I completely lose interest. “Hey,” I’ll think, examining a dusty book. “This is a chance to learn what it might have been like for a Minister’s wife in the time of the Puritans. What a great read this will be.” Or, “Wow, the first game of the World Series is tonight? Of course I’ll check that out. The whole world’s going to be watching.” But no matter what happens in the first ten pages or during the first two innings, my excitement inevitably dwindles and, eventually, I wander off to make a sandwich and browse internet personals in search of creepy, socially incompetent people with bad pictures that will make me feel better about myself.
True, the whole, “my good intentions are larger than my attention-span” thing is more frequently a problem when it comes to watching sports. I’ve irritated my share of friends by noisily picking all the peanuts out of the Chex Mix, tooting on my half-empty Corona bottle and attempting to make chatty, unrelated conversation without waiting for commercial breaks during heated sports events. It’s certainly harder to bother anyone else by dropping a fictionalized first-person historical novel on the floor as you trudge over to the TV for blissful delivery from the pain of conscious thought. But I’m sure it can still be done.
The idea of getting really involved in watching sports is incredibly appealing to me in theory. But in practice, I find the games themselves to be generally without drama. I reach more emotional highs and lows watching “Saved by the Bell” reruns than ice hockey; I experience feel more urgency when rooting for a particularly slow-moving parent sliding around in a kiddy pool filled with sour cream on “Family Double Dare” than I do watching a baseball player chase a ground ball. And the rules and stats that flash across the screen during games make me both sleepy and anxious.
Watching as pictures of players’ little heads and crabbed, unexplained numbers zoom across the television at random intervals tends to leave me scowling. (This may be due to the fact that, ever since graduating, staring at columns of numbers is something I do right before writing out heart-shrinkingly enormous checks and mailing them to The Student Loan Corporation). Worst of all is that I know I must be missing out. I have to be. How else can these games bring such joy, such pain, and such endless hours of chips-and-salsa-eating entertainment to so many of my loved ones? My inability to appreciate televised sports leaves a void in my soul, a void that can only be filled by VH1 celebrity-worship shows, Lifetime movies starring Antonio Sabato Jr. as an amusement-park owning single dad with a jealous stalker, and commercials where elderly people querulously use contemporary slang, with hilarious results.
Come to think of it, I guess it’s not a very picky void.