Do you miss sports? (That was a rhetorical question.)
Of course we do! Who wouldn’t? Even a casual fan would give their left arm to throw back a few beers at a baseball game right about now even if they couldn’t tell you the two teams playing. So how do you think the “hardcore” sports fan feels right about now?
Let me answer that: I feel fantastic.
I never thought I’d say this, but as the pandemic drags on, I find the one “normal” thing I don’t miss nearly as much as anticipated is live sporting events. Why, you might ask? Let’s take baseball, for example. If MLB was a TV series, it would be the equivalent of Days of Our Lives or The Price is Right. It’s been on for ages, yet it keeps churning out new material. Who needs reruns when we can constantly get our fix 30-60 minutes every day to achieve a new high as if we were chugging five cups of coffee to get through our day?
The problem is, the more we crave sports – specifically that rush of anxiety and rollercoaster of emotions over 3-4 hours, or sometimes longer – the more we forget about how great sports has been to us in the past.
I’ve been watching sports for close to three decades and obsessing over them for almost as long. If you’re one of those oddballs who still craves new episodes of the Simpsons, consider a world where the greatest cartoon of all time finally called it quits. You still have thirty years of laughter to fall back on. Could you not rewatch 100 of your favorite episodes to fill 50 hours of your time (that would be on par with an entire NFL regular season)?
There are a few obvious reasons why people do not want to watch previous sporting events. You know the outcome. The players in the game may no longer be playing (or even living). The picture quality isn’t as good. Sure, all valid points. But let me counter with this – if you saw a great movie, would you automatically deprive yourself of ever watching it again?
For me, the reasons go much deeper. I no longer see myself as a sports “fan.” Sure, I still support my hometown teams, the Ravens and Orioles. Sure, I jump on bandwagons from time to time (mostly underdogs). But my joy of sports (primarily baseball and football) run much deeper. I crave the data and statistics, the strategy, and the general intricacies of a given game. If it’s a game I’ve already seen, I love going back in time and recapturing the feelings I had when I first watched it (or attended it in person).
But here’s some good news: you don’t only have to watch games you’ve already seen! If you’re an MLB fan who has been watching for a decade, that means you have a measly 24,300 games to choose from (and that’s just regular season!). I mean, why do we even keep records and pay attention to history if we can’t enjoy reliving some of these moments that brought us so much joy? Is nostalgia such a horrible thing to cling to and rely on for our sports-related endorphins?
This is also a wonderful break for the sports gambler in me. A dizzying array of point spreads, money line bets, and futures wagers enveloped my time to the point where the lines of enjoyment and obsession became blurred. To be able to pick and choose when I want to watch sports has been one of the most freeing feelings I can recall experiencing.
And lastly, as we wait for these half-assed ideas for the returns of NHL, NBA, and MLB to come to fruition, it’s got me wondering – is it even worth it? I mean, if you can’t do something right, why do it at all? Do we need a basketball or hockey season two weeks from the finish line being drastically altered and suddenly played in empty arenas in random venues just for sake of awarding a championship trophy when we all know that no one will ever give that winning team its rightful credit? I believe that, too, is a rhetorical question.
It’s certainly no different for baseball. A fanless Wrigley Field playing the seventh inning stretch to just the players and stadium workers? Come on. And no sunflower seeds, spitting, or shaking hands? This isn’t prison-yard baseball. Bottle up that desperation and transform it into unrelenting passion to make the 2021 season as memorable – and normal – as possible.
In the meantime, kick back, relax (yes I know, much easier said than done these days) and sift through the endless library of sporting events you can rewatch, analyze, and yearn for while waiting for a (proper) return to those panic-inducing moments you never thought you could live without.