I’m talking sports here. Playing professional baseball, football, basketball etc… belongs to the physically endowed. Watching it is something else. Spending my lifetime as a spectator must surely be a form of retardation. Not merely a spectator but a fan as in fanatic. There must be dozen of reasons to turn away from this fixation. The obscene profits by owners, outrageous salaries, commodification and endorsements such as by shoe companies, public money to build stadiums and conflation with the military along with phony patriotism to name a few.
Like any addiction I can’t help myself. It defies the rational. The reptilian brain overthrowing the frontal cortex. It’s hormonal. My child is still alive. Grow up, I hear you say. But why would I want to do that? Maybe I was concussed playing touch football as a kid and never recovered. Sports is my alternative reality. That section of the newspaper I can count on to whisk me away from the even more duplicitous avarice of institutional malevolence issuing from the White House.
Indefensible as the case may be immersion in sports stats and personnel offers a ticket into an on-going human drama in which a curtain goes down at the end of each season only to open at the start of next with new hopes and dreams. As if we, as avid fans, can move a few chess pieces and declare victory. Don’t you love spending other people’s money? Of course you do.
Fans live vicariously with the joy of championships and die bitterly with defeats. We curse our team and players on Monday and embrace them by Thursday. They become us. And while they become old we never do. We are puer aeternus. There is always some young phenom with great promise waiting in the wings into whose skin we can crawl. Each new season we are reborn.
The Dodgers, once the Boys of Summer, haven’t won a World Series in thirty years though we have come close. I suppose some fans see it as death by a thousand cuts. Not me. All I ask is six or seven months of diversion. Go ahead, make me care. Provide me with transport like a good poem or any work of art.
And to plagiarize myself..........Real fans are descendants of pagans, idolaters who converse with the gods who know the power of a sacrificial act. If it takes closing my eyes I’m willing to miss the play. We are zealots who move our bodies into others to do battle, once removed, against the forces of darkness. We are beyond spectators. We suit up for the game in a different skin. For the next three hours we are possessed.
Maybe it’s not just distraction but some form of extension of the real world mysteriously connected to the larger canvas of human progress. Athletes do not regress. They are bigger, faster, and stronger than their grandfathers. Virtual Adonis-like with exceptions here and there. Yes, yes, I know about the greats of those good old days but as an aggregate, pitchers now throw faster, and more hitters hit farther. What is retrogressive is Trump.
If, as Marx proclaimed, religion is the opiate of the masses then watching sports on T.V. may be the myopia of the asses. But in these days of derangement we need our opiates. In fact it may even be healthier than wringing our hands and gnashing our teeth watching 3-4 hours of MSNBC. Better yet...I could go to the library, listen to Billie sing Gershwin, cherish Peggy, commune with my favorite tree or improvise on that recipe for bread pudding.