Lessons from Losing Interest
Okay, by now you have a fair idea that I don’t always think the same way other people do. Today, the day of Super Bowl LI, I am thinking about losing interest in spectator sports, why that is happening and what might be learned.
I will be watching the Super Bowl this evening, but only barely. It will be the only pro football game I have watched this year.
The first Super Bowl that was memorable was Joe Namath and the Jets beating Baltimore 16-7 in 1969. I had to look that up. Namath guaranteed the win. I did not have to look that up.
Namath’s bravado wasn’t the memorable part. Watching it with my girlfriend in Newport, RI, where I was a Navy officer, is what I remember. During tonight’s game I will be picking her up at the airport.
From 1975 through 1980, I had a friend who liked the Steelers. They won four times. I sort of remember that. The rest of the games are kind of a haze though there have been about 45 others.
Truth is, I don’t really care. What’s the matter with me? Or is there something to learn?
Is losing interest me or them or both?
A few weeks ago, The New York Times ran two stories on the subject, neither one on the sports page. The first was Game Over by Sridhar Pappu. The second was Letter of Recommendation: Fair-Weather Fandom by Jeremy Gordon. Pappu must be a writer for the Times because there is no description of him, but Gordon is an associate editor at Spin magazine.
Here are a few quotes from Pappu’s story. Just let them wash over you to create a gauzy impression of losing interest. Though these excerpts are consecutive, they are not always related.
- “I think I have gotten to a point in my life where I need to let things go that don’t bring me enjoyment,” he said. “I think as you get older, you realize you don’t hang on to things that don’t bring you joy. If it’s not making me happy, then why do it? Don’t just do it because you feel like you should be doing it. That’s what I was doing — I was going up every Sunday for the Browns, and I was dreading it.”
- But then there are those fans who begin to question why they care so much. Once doubt takes hold, they wonder why they spend so much time and emotion on mere games. Before they know it, they are on a path that takes them away from the majority culture for whom sports adulation is the norm.
- McNees, 43, decided to take a step back. He has not sworn off the Tar Heels altogether, but he no longer watches every game. And when he does, he is careful not to allow the outcome to ruin his day.
- “It got to a point where even seeing a grown man in his mid-30s wearing a jersey with some other name on the back struck me as immature and odd,” he added. “You say, ‘Come on man, grow up.’”
Now here are a few quotes from Gordon’s story. Same deal: examples of losing interest that are not always related.
- I am a bandwagon sports fan, the lowest of the low. I go months and years without paying attention to my teams, usually checking in only when the going is good. In fallow years, I’m happy to drift away.
- Sports aren’t for everyone, but they’re everything for some and something to most. More people watch the Super Bowl than vote in presidential elections…
- Aspirational deadbeat dads in XL jerseys get into shoving matches at stadiums; family bank accounts are emptied on long-shot betting odds; soccer hooligans terrorize tournaments. Feelings split into a toxic binary — ecstatic when we win, unreasonably angry when we lose.
- I started to feel a bit ridiculous. Why take this so personally? Why be a downer because of a ballgame?
- The cultural insistence on being a “real fan” begins to seem deeply silly — it isn’t as though St. Peter judges your bona fides at the pearly gates.
Clearly, losing interest in pro sports is not unique to me. If the promoters bear any responsibility for losing me as a customer, they should look to “excess” – too many games, too much hype – as the cause.
In a democracy, we voters are the score of the political games. How many of us vote this way or that determines the outcome. But, as contributors of time, money and emotional energy to the promoters of the political game, we are customers.
Are we losing interest and, if so, why? Too many games? Too much hype? Too much fear selling? Disgust?