That’s Entertainment?

I enjoy watching professional sports on television, except for hockey and soccer. But I definitely watch a fair amount of baseball, American football, and basketball. It is the primary reason I have not dropped my cable TV service in favor of streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix.

Of course, professional sports are not the only thing I watch on television. I watch a fair amount of cable news coverage, and I watch a lot of shows like Antiques Road Show, Ice Road Truckers, as well as the History Channel, cooking shows and stuff like that. But live action sports are, for me, the main attraction of cable TV service, because it is live television that let’s you get away from the day to day rumble tumble. I mean, really, the only other live television these days is hurricane coverage, which is not a get away from anything; it’s an immersion into something very bad. Even Saturday Night Live isn’t “live” if you’re watching from the west coast (though supposedly their going to try a live coast to coast broadcast this season; it’ll be interesting to see how many people stay home in prime time on a Saturday night to see that).

Which is why I am dismayed that in the past several months, professional sporting events have began to cross-pollinate with the sort of news coverage that I watch live sports to get away from. It started last season when a certain quarterback decided to sit during the singing of the National Anthem as a protest. Of course, said quarterback has a right under the First Amendment of the Constitution to engage in free speech, even in the context of his employment, because the matter he was protesting is a matter of broad public interest. Even I have written about it previously. So, I have no problem with him (or any other professional athlete) exercising their right to free speech. But you know what? When they engage in that free speech attendant to a professional sporting event, I don’t find that entertaining.

In fact, quite the opposite. It makes we want to change the channel, or turn off the TV. Which is not to say that I think the issues they are protesting are unimportant. I watch a lot of news coverage about those issues and follow the discussions with keen interest. It’s just that maybe I already spent a few hours during the week watching that coverage. Maybe I’ve also watched coverage about street protests in my region about those issues; perhaps I’ve even attended a protest or two. So when I try to watch a live sporting event, the last thing I want to think about at that particular time is protests or the underlying issues. I’m trying to take a break from that for a few dear hours. And it’s now to the point where I can’t listen to sports talk radio without 20% of the content being a meta-level discussion of the protests and the underlying issues.

Some might say that’s selfish on my part; that the protests are so much more important than the live sporting events. That’s true, of course. But then why should I watch the live sporting events at all? I could just watch the cable news coverage about the protests or read about them in articles online without sandwiching in a lot of sweaty guys engaged in various activities involving balls of different shapes and sizes.

I spent some time thinking about this and it occurred to me that the National Anthem is not played or sung at other events, like golf tournaments, for example (I’ve been to several tournaments, so I know first hand). Also, the National Anthem is not played prior to the beginning of most live music event, or when you go to a comedy club or some other type of live entertainment.

Why do the major professional sports leagues in this country play the National Anthem before the games? It isn’t required by law; it’s something the leagues have decided to do at some point and have done for a long time. Frankly, I don’t presume to know why they do it, exactly. If you take them at their word, via the stadium announcer, it is to “honor America.” The stadium announcer always says, “To honor America, please stand and remove your cap during the singing of our National Anthem.” So let’s assume there is no other reason than the stated one: to honor America. Except that some subset of the players have decided to not follow the request of the stadium announcer, which is their right. Well, it seems to me at that point it does not honor America. My suggestion would be to stop playing the National Anthem at professional sporting events until this entire issue is resolved.

In the meantime, I’m going to stop watching live action sports on television, not as a protest or boycott, but because I am not entertained.

Why I Love Golf

Yep, that’s me, Dufnering at the home course.

I played golf yesterday with some of my co-workers. It was a beautiful day.

It’s difficult to explain to people who’ve never played golf why it’s so much fun, and I suspect that even people who play golf do it for different reasons. Of course, golf is a sport, so there’s the athletic component. But on the other hand, most people who play golf can’t really be considered athletes, and most golfers never come close to mastering it as an athletic endeavor.

Also, it is somewhat expensive, what with the equipment and the fees to play a round. It is also time consuming. My round yesterday clocked in at a little over five hours, not counting the two post round beers and pre-round warm-up on the driving range.

So why play? Why subject yourself to the occasional psychological melt-downs and humiliation in front of your foursome? Why drag yourself out of bed at six in the morning on a weekend? For me, it comes down to the special moments that can only occur in the context of that particular sport, and often those moments happen when you’re not swinging your clubs.

For example, I was playing a round with friends a couple of years ago when suddenly a large white owl flew overhead, seemingly escorted on either side by large black crows. It looked like something out of a story about spirit animals. Two of my friends saw it, so I know I wasn’t hallucinating. Then there’s the fact that while no two golf courses are alike, the game itself is unchanging, and most all golf courses are park-like and beautiful. You can play by the ocean, or in the mountains, or in the desert. It’s a game that is consistent with recreational travel.

Also, golf, more than probably any other sport, with the possible exception of bowling, is a social activity. Did I say a round of golf takes a while to play? The plus side is that you are spending time with people, talking about most anything, including, of course, golf. Every now and then you’ll play with someone you don’t know, and five hours later you’ve have a new friend.

Finally, there are moments when even the most unskilled golfer hits a perfect tee shot, or holes out with an iron from the fairway, or sinks a sixty foot putt. When those moments happen, all the bad shots sink into the background and you know why you keep coming back, again and again, trying to shoot a lower score next time.