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?



12 Responses to “Lessons from Losing Interest”

James Walton, February 05, 2017 at 10:00 am said:

Good luck to Chase Carey buying the marketing rights to Formula One for $8bn. I think they bought a phantom, they were outsmarted by a sly old Brit, and its one way only from here


Haven Pell, February 05, 2017 at 11:24 am said:

Perhaps President Trump can provide guidance on the impending bankruptcy


Simon Berry, February 05, 2017 at 10:09 am said:

Too much information, too many distractions.
I am writing this during 1/2 time Italy vs Wales in the Rugby Union 6 nations. As an Englishman I don’t care who wins, although it is nice to see Wales lose, Italy (the underdogs) just scored a try and are leading.

I am in the dedans of the jeu de paume in Pau. It is raining outside and there is no one else here otherwise I would be outside in the sun or playing tennis – not watching rugby.

It is harder to concentrate on anything as, just as I am now, I have been distracted by the internet.

As for politics, Brexit is a beautiful example of why i have become disinterested. We – the people voted to leave the European social experiment. Now our so call elected officials who allege to represent us (through some very undemocratic voting process – where is PR?) would given a free vote tell us the WE should stay in

No one seems to have spotted that if we had a parliament that more closely reflected the views of those that they purport to represent (PR) we may take more interest.

The second half has started – bye for now


Brandy, February 05, 2017 at 10:33 am said:

In this land of Nittany Lions I’m surrounded by folk with vehicle fleets just for “Partying” in pregame in Happy Valley. I understand the lure of returning to ill spent youth. Seeing friends and loves in a remote bastion with one purpose, education (?). I don’t understand nor care about the Eagles. Nor the loyalty that seems to be accident of residence v other reason. Maybe small city teams (Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Green Bay) provide a sense of stature v Dallas, NYC,,,,,
My personal interest is limited to playing some sports and whatever my g’kids are into


Haven Pell, February 05, 2017 at 11:47 am said:

sounds like loss of interest is not universal


Temple Grassi, February 05, 2017 at 10:43 am said:

The Washington Redskins (aka Washington Football team) are the true ‘unifier’ in DC- you get into a cab (Uber) and the three topics are 1. Weather 2. Sports teams 3. Politics
The ‘skins need to improve to distract conversation away from #3! Having said this, The Nats, Caps, and even The Wizards are doing well- but does anyone care about The University of Maryland ( Twerps)!?


Haven Pell, February 05, 2017 at 11:48 am said:

there is much excellent learning in cabs


Ashley Higgins, February 05, 2017 at 11:42 am said:

At the below link you can find a table the last column of which is turnout.
If you sort by turnout, you see that the highest turnout seems to have been in the latter half of the 1800s. The lowest turnout is shown in the post-WWI 1920s. Generally speaking from a sort by year of election, for those presidents who were re-elected, there was less turnout for the second election. My personal belief is that the vigor of the young and growing nation was sapped by the dawn of Progressivism and that, as we seem to have less interest in second terms, we seem to have a declining interest and engagement as a result of the subsequent inexorable and stultifying growth of domineering “experts” and “intellectuals” and “elites” and “big government.”


Haven Pell, February 05, 2017 at 12:07 pm said:

Great find, Ashley.

The top 18 elections measured by voter turnout took place between 1840 and 1908. Every single one scored at the top of the list.

Five of the six elections from 1980 through 2000 were ranked at the bottom of the turnout table with 1992 as the outlier.

From 2004 through 2016 they are scattered about.


GARRARD GLENN, February 05, 2017 at 12:41 pm said:

Bread, and Circuses. Nowadays, we have an excess of both. One reads of the growing scourge
of obesity. This can be easily confirmed by tooling around any city or town, and noting an astounding marshmellowification of all too many of our fellow citizens.

As to circuses, we have too many of those, too. The vast plethora of movies and T.V. now offered up by the tube is truly astounding. And here comes another plethora threatening to swamp even the flickering siren call of the tube: video games. And then of course there’s just the simple surfing of the web by billions of faceschnooks.

Even the martial call of football, our game closest to an approximation of war, is undergoing
tough sledding in competition with all the other distractions. With all the other circus acts.

Ironically, Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey just threw in the towel after over 140 years of
non-stop circusing. A pity! But they weren’t online, were they…People now prefer screens to tents.


Haven Pell, February 05, 2017 at 1:31 pm said:

good observations. You are sending me out on my bike now to avoid the marshmallow thing.


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