There’s got to be something better than watching sports

Greg Jerrett

Eventually everybody writes one of these coming out columns so I guess it’s my turn to take the next step in public humiliation by announcing to anyone who cares to listen that I have a dirty, little secret. Do I dance around in private wearing women’s under-garments luxuriating in the sensuousness of nylon and angora? Well, not every day, but who doesn’t like that?

Am I secretly addicted to smack? No, but these days that wouldn’t even amount to much of a confession. Everybody tries the odd illicit substance. Even the occasional presidential candidate has a narcotic-soaked skeleton in his closet, so no one pays much attention to that business either.

No, my horrible secret is worse than those: I can’t stand watching sports.

There, I said it and now you can have a good titter.

I don’t mean that I wouldn’t prefer to spend my Saturday afternoons watching golf or professional fishing. I mean I can’t even stand watching the Super Bowl. I wouldn’t even watch the World Series unless I knew somebody playing in it.

I can’t stand hearing about sports or listening to people drone on and on about scores, players and statistics. It makes me want to wretch.

And it’s not because I spent my high school years playing chess and Dungeons and Dragons, eschewing the company of real men in favor of asthmatic geeks whose mothers would sell their souls to get them out of gym class.

I was never a world-class athlete, but I played varsity football in high school, for god’s sake. I played tackle, left guard and, on one particularly painful experience, nose guard. It wasn’t that I was so bad at it that I lost interest either.

The ranks of sports fans are filled with guys who couldn’t hack it on the field and turned to televised sports to live vicariously through. I was primed for that. You would think I would have spent every spare moment on the weekends watching football and immersing myself in the various events just because I was involved, but I didn’t.

Changing channels on a Saturday afternoon, I cringe every time I hear the dull roar of the crowd pierced by a whistle or that foghorn thing announcing half time or the end of the game.

And what is the deal with these mentally challenged announcers? Where do they dig these guys up? Do they actually aspire to do those jobs or are they just journalists who decided the money was better shouting “Blam!” and “Lord almighty, what a day for a ball game!”

The only people more annoying are the “smart” sports guys like Bob Costas who actually infuse these events with philosophical significance while pining on about the good ‘ole days and the great moments they’ve witnessed while they run some damnable montage of sports moments from the 1970s.

I did enjoy the “Wide World of Sports” when I was a kid, however. You got bits and pieces of nearly every sporting event worth watching in the world that day, from stock car racing to free-style skiing to hurling, thrown at you in one afternoon.

It was kind of comforting in the winter months when there was nothing else to do while the snow piled up outdoors to hear Howard Cosell drone on and Jimmy Stuart exclaim in his thick Scottish brogue “What a great day for racing!”

Our society puts a high premium on athletes, athletic ability and detailed sports knowledge. Televised sports are big money events, too. So it isn’t surprising that a close second to all of these is camping out on a barstool getting liquored up or parking your butt on a La-Z-Boy with a bowl of chips and a crockpot full of barbecued little smokies hooting and hollering like a pack of mountain apes.

Not that I’m hyper-critical of people who choose to spend their time doing these things. What else is there to do? Watching TV is watching TV, I guess. At least it is as great a time waster to watch sports as it is to watch movies on one of seven cable channels.

And watching sports must make one feel like they are part of something greater. You are watching an event that thousands of other people are watching. It’s a group activity in the way that watching “Funny Farm” for the 15th time just isn’t.

Still, I’d rather watch Chevy Chase in one of his worst movies than spend even five minutes watching 22 grown men prance around in tight pants slapping each other on the ass, mugging for the cameras and claim to be heading to Disneyworld after the game ends.

I remember spending the night in my room a few years back watching “Masterpiece Theater” while my roommate had a Super Bowl party in the other room with a bunch of his friends from work. Let me tell you, it takes a lot of guts to tell a room full of angry men that you would rather watch a show about nuns than whoever the hell was in the biggest game of the year THAT year.

Oh sure, I’d pop my head out once in a while to score some chips and weenies and pretend that I gave a damn about the score, but no one was fooled. They knew if I gave a damn, I’d have been out there hooting with the rest of them.

How much is enough? How much worthless trivia do you need to keep up on? Batting averages, yards gained or lost, pins knocked down, it’s all so meaningless. Even if I could convince myself that it wasn’t, all of these stats become dated and useless when a new crop of thyroid conditions pops up every few years to take the place of the last batch.

I see the human story played out, too, I just see a bigger picture. I don’t care much for the triumph of the human spirit as it pertains to some jock making one glorious touchdown against relatively surmountable odds. I do see the tragedy of people devoting their lives to playing a damn game though.

How many of these pro football players end up selling insurance when they’re done? How many of them could have spent their time in college getting a real degree that they pissed away for a chance to be the next Wheaties box?

There are very few Michael Jordans in this world.

How much misdirected energy is spent looking up to men and women whose greatest accomplishment in life is that they were uniquely gifted to throw a ball?

The only thing more frustrating is listening to someone like Charles Barkley admonish us that he is not a hero? If guys like that can’t stand up and be an example for kids, then their lives are truly meaningless. They contribute NOTHING else to our society so the least they can do is be examples of achievement against the odds.

Greg Jerrett is a graduate student in English from Council Bluffs. He is opinion editor of the Daily. Say “hi” to him at the women’s basketball game on Saturday, but don’t wake him up.