The Magic of Professional Sports is Missing

Yeah, once upon a time I used to be a huge professional and collegiate sports fan (I consider most of the more popular sports in college athletics to be a professional sport)…I loved the Boston Celtics, New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Notre Dame football, hell I even closely followed the Boston Bruins and for many years and didn’t miss too many episodes of ESPN’s Sports Center, Mike & Mike or other more local daily coverage of the world of sports.

Today in all honesty when it comes to professional sports I am more likely to go “yeah okay” or “that’s nice” or even “who cares”. I follow them enough that I can talk with others who are more passionate about them, but that is about all.

No, this is not a rant by some crotchety old guy, who believes that professional and collegiate sports are all that much different from how they were in the past.

Maybe it is just me.

The Past in my view.

Many players and teams will do what they can to get an edge, whether it is ethical or cheating, that hasn’t really changed over the years, just the methods by which they attempt to do those things have changed. So it is not that cheating or that sports are anymore or any less morally challenged than in the past that bothers me.

Speaking of an edge, better athletes through modern chemistry is not a new thing, just more advanced, sometimes tougher to figure out who is doing what and yes, it does give those who do it a distinct advantage over those who do not. Whether or not it causes subsequent damage to the athlete’s lifespan or quality of life beyond athletics, is beyond the scope of this post. However, I am not a supporter of better athletes through modern chemistry, but I also not that naive to believe that it has not, does not and will not happen.

When money or celebrity is involved, it seems having or getting an advantage makes a difference in athletes, management and ownership’s judgement.

Which gets to the celebrity statues that many athletes, coaches and owners of teams enjoy as a result of their or their athlete’s athletic achievements. This has always been the case – good or great athletes and coaches at the local, national or international levels have always enjoyed the “perks” of being “good” at their sport and the financial rewards that accompany that go along with it.

Although I do tend to believe that amount of money in professional sports today is rather obscene, I don’t begrudge owners, coaches or players getting as big a piece of the pie as they can – after all they provide “entertainment” to the rest of us.

If none of those things have really bothered me over the years and don’t bother me now, what changed?

Three things really and I believe that each one really does affect the other.

  1. 24/7 focus on sports. The reporting on sports (and everything else it seems) has proliferated to the point where there is/are very few stones unturned, the media’s need to tear down athletes, management, owners, officials, umpires, referees or anyone else to ensure that a story is controversial i.e. newsworthy enough to get press time – has gotten old for me.

    It is almost like the media has become so jaded regarding sports figures that they have taken the goodness out of covering other human beings doing things that the reporters could never do or no longer can do. So all too often the phenomenal athletes or their achievements have to be torn down and brought back to a level of mediocrity or averageness that is not as threatening to others.

    Has the sports media over-reported the athletes so much that they have stolen away many of our heroes?

    For me maybe they have, some of the greatest athletes are not always great people and have some huge skeletons in their closets, but do I really need to know them? Evidently in today’s 24/7 world where everything is known about everyone, I am supposed to whether I want to or not.

  2. Loyalty. Speaking of the loyalty, where is it other than with the fan?

    Neither the owners, management or players exhibit much in the way of loyalty when it comes to being a member of a team that I follow. The old stay with a team from rookie season to retirement is much the same as staying with a single company for that amount time in real life – it doesn’t happen very often in today’s world.

    The connections and loyalty that I as a fan make with players and teams has dissolved as sports has become big business and make no mistake about it, sports are BIG BUSINESS.

    It is hard to root for teams when they are run as if they are an IBM, Microsoft, Mobil, 3M or some other large faceless corporate entity and the players are a member of a team more for the money than anything else. Not that making money by everyone involved is a bad thing, but at what point does it get to be the only thing that matters.

    I understand the bottom-line is the bottom-line for both owners and players (especially the players, who like Icarus only have a short time in the sun to make their money), but it seems to me that it is the fan who gets the short-end of stick.

    Well of course unless the team is winning…Then the fan is happy…well for a short time at least, until the team can’t or won’t pay those players who got them there (lets them go or trades them away), the player decides to leave or the team leaves the city.

    But I have to ask as a fan, is it really our team that wins, or just a collection of highly paid individuals, who have been brought together conveniently by the corporation with the best management and enough money to make it work for a short period of time.

    After all it is a business – isn’t it?

    To everyone, but the fan. That person who steadfastly roots for his or her team year-after-year regardless of who plays for it or what their record is. You know that loyal fan.

  3. The magic is missing.

    Yeah, athletics are a magical or at least they can be. The magic of the moment is real in sports.  Moments like: “Havlicek stole the ball!” Henry Aaron’s number 715, Meb crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon a year after the bombing and so many other “magical moments” in our sports history that I have cheered over, argued about and cried over.

    The moments that touch us, make memories good and bad for our team’s legacies. Those magical moments where athletics suspend or at least temporarily transcend  the hum drum existence of daily life.

    While these moments are still happening for many fans, those moments for me have been fleeting and mostly “oh that’s nice” or “I am glad my team won” kind of thoughts after they happen. An example would be instead of being excited during things like the Patriots coming back after being down 3-28 in the Super Bowl, something I missed, because I haven’t had the interest to watch the last two.

    The anticipation and excitement about being able to be a part of that moment vicariously as a spectator is a powerful emotion and one that I have not had lately. I don’t follow, watch the games enough live anymore to be a part of those magical moments. After all I can watch it later on the sports show of my choice in a condensed highlight reel from a reel of highlights that never end.

    It is almost as if I have become over stimulated to the point where I am numb to the magic of sport’s great moments today, because there seems to be so much coverage of so many great moments every day, that I cannot sort out the truly great moments from the merely good ones.

    Perhaps the magic is still there, but hidden underneath the deluge of inane big business of sports coverage and their efforts to make every moment seemingly the next big magical moment.

The reality is that

I haven’t felt the magic of being a professional or collegiate sports fan for at least a couple of years. As collegiate and professional sports have moved into the field of big business over the years, I have become more jaded and less interested in following the “games” that I used to love.

Watching one of the major professional sports and the seemingly endless coverage of them today is not a priority for me. The days of me sitting and watching a full Red Sox game, attempting to watch all 82 regular season Celtics games on radio or TV, actually watching all the Patriots games or even putting on the Bruins when nothing else is on are over.

I might even catch one of the sports shows for a particular reason: a big trade, the draft or something that interests me, but I have stopped watching/listening to the daily in-depth coverage of sports as a form of entertainment. Its angry tone, shrill attention seeking commentary and repetitive nature fails to tap my interest like it used to.

There is too much noise.

I don’t know if it is just me or the professional sports themselves or how they are covered, but something has changed. The love that I had for watching, following and supporting my teams has waned to the point where going out and mowing the lawn comes before watching a football game, playing a video game comes before watching baseball or basketball game and reading or watching a good book or movie is better entertainment than something to do with sports.

It is sad to realize that something that was such an important part of your life for so long, now has so little meaning in it.

The magic of professional sports is gone for me.

Yeah, I guess I am getting to be a crotchety old fart.

I guess I will stop here and go for a run and see if I can find some of that old magic out on a road someplace.

Maybe, I just need to find a spark somewhere to rekindle that love of professional sports and see the magic of them again.

3 thoughts on “The Magic of Professional Sports is Missing

  1. You make some really good points. I agree that some of the issue in my own enthusiasm lies in the lack of loyalty. When players are able to be bought for so much money and don’t play for the team because of what it stands for, I also lose some respect for the players.

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  2. I have mixed feelings about this, let me just toss out some thoughts:

    – Sports is HUGE business, and the spread of that business from pro to college to high school has really tainted all of them in my opinion.

    – Also, the MONEY has had a huge impact on things in terms of elaborate doping scandals and so on.

    – Speaking of money – as a parent of non-sports kids, I saw how disproportionate the impact of budget cuts can be: the big sports (football, baseball, basketball) get cut last, way after things like art and music.

    – ‘Big Money’ sports is relatively new (in our lifetime). Into the 60s players needed to do something in the off-season, and those not at the very pinnacle often needed literal ‘summer jobs’. It was really in the mid-late 70s that changed with free agency and the balance of power shifting to players to capture some of the big TV money. THAT changed the whole concept of loyalty, as players suddenly became just ‘resources’ that were part of a strategic machine.

    – But also true, loyalty in general has shifted. I work for a company that still prides itself on a ‘hire to retire’ mindset, though it has shifted somewhat. Most companies have no problem with massive layoffs and often blame anyone but themselves for poor planning. It is incredibly disruptive and breeds low satisfaction. But it also means we don’t react the same way when a player is traded away.

    – The result of that, like you say, is losing the emotional attachment to our Birds, McHale, Parish, Orr, Yaz, and so on. Sure it has been >50 years since Havlichek and 30 years since ‘Bird Steals it’ … but I seldom feel that connection today.

    – Doping in general has left me cynical about sports from pro level on down.

    – I *totally* agree with the impact of the 24/7 news cycle. I don’t want my sports players, film directors, musicians, and so on to be like the Kardashians and know every element of their life.

    – Speaking of which … I miss the days when football *ended* and went away for 8-9 months. Now it creeps into February and starts in August and there is tremendous off-season coverage (to fill airtime, of course). This is true for every sport. Having hockey games when most of the lower 48 is experiencing summer? No thanks!

    – Also, things like the evolving revelations about chronic CTE injuries and how they play out impacts my ability to support this stuff. I stopped liking boxing in the 80s, never liked the MMA crap, and football as a brain injury factory tells me my time there is limited.

    – I personally support the rights of the players to do whatever they want during the national anthem. So none of the current crap impacts sports for me. My thought – if you don’t want political protests in sports, get the national anthem (politics) out of sports.

    One area I will disagree is the Patriots … sure it isn’t the whole team, but Bellichek and Brady have been the cornerstones of a dynasty like nothing the NFL has ever seen. And this year’s Super Bowl … OMG YES that is one of those great, monumental Boston sports memories. 🙂

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    • Everything follows the money and the more money there is in sports/business/politics the more importance it takes on. It also becomes a factor in participants (owners, management and players) finding ways, reasons and excuses to skirt the rules and what most would consider ethical behaviors. At times it is almost as though cheating is acceptable as long as you don’t get caught, whereas in the past it wasn’t an acceptable part of the games. All the sports seek and attempt to stay pertinent 12 months of the year and there is no time for a respite from the hype and hoopla in any of the professional sports leagues. Like you I preferred when the seasonal sports ended at the end of the season. Baseball was over the first week of October, early January football was done, Basketball finished in April, Hockey March early April. Injuries are a part of sports, but the CTE revelations scare me for the youngsters who play and don’t know the difference. Sports is the great opportunity for many players to improve their lives and the lives of their families going forward, those players who willingly sacrifice their bodies and possible futures to ensure a bit of economic stability for their families, do have my respect and sympathy. There is a lot about sports that is good, but there are too many skeletons and negatives that are spoiling most professional sports for me. I say this as I finish watching the Patriots beat the Texans and wonder how much longer Brady can play at this high of a level. Belichek is a great coach and I love how he treats the sports media, but every once in a while we see a crack into the person behind the persona and he is someone that I would love to sit with for an evening having a beer or two after a long run where we get to know one another in a different way – as fellow athletes not adversaries – after he does run every once in a while 🙂

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