the beautiful game
i am not what could be considered a “sports person.” while i can appreciate the enjoyment that comes from experiencing a game with a community of fans and the charged and stimulating atmosphere that a sporting event creates, i am especially disinterested in watching mainstream, american sports on television. i don’t watch the super bowl and my family watches it only for the commercials. i don’t know what march madness really is and have no idea how drafts work. i am offended by beer commercials.
i love, however, to watch soccer games. alot. in my house. in friends’ homes. in pubs, in the wee hours of the morning because they are taking place on the other side of the world. with strangers. or friends. or alone.
here is what i notice about watching soccer. to truly experience a soccer game one has to sit still and pay attention. there aren’t commercial breaks. there aren’t time outs. subbing happens rarely and usually only toward the very end of play. for 45 minutes there are sustained shots of a field with players peppering it and working together. there are typically very few goals made which requires observers to delay gratification and wait. everyone truly watching a game in proximity of eachother is assured of 90 minutes together focusing on the same thing. the game.
where else does this happen?
the commercialization of sport has meant that television breaks are often and long so that advertisers can eek every second out of the ad time they pay for. entire seasons are worked out around prime viewerships. the athletes are paid salaries so large and so detached from effort that it’s often difficult to find “heart” in their play. half time shows engage performers of other genres to pull in new fans. and everything is sponsored. everything. the stadiums. the half time shows. the little boxes that the stats are shown in.
it seems to me that so little of what we expose ourselves to anymore requires us to sit still or tolerate boredom. rarely do we force ourselves to share space with others where there is sustained focus yet an opportunity for interaction. when our surroundings stop being “exciting” we lose interest and go out for a smoke, or check our phones, or find a new source of stimulation. we move on.
opposing rugby teams, after matches, sit down for a meal together. regardless of how tough the competition has been or how far they have to travel home, they sit their muddy selves down across a table and eat. i’m sure that at least one team, at the end of each match, would much rather move on than sit and interact. civility and community and tradition and an ability to do the thing which is difficult force a different end, however.
what if we, like rugby players, forced ourselves to sit still and enter in. to pay attention even when the action is waning and we’re bored out of our minds. to commit to 90 minutes of something, anything, that requires civility, community, tradition, or an ability to do something difficult. to experience something as it’s really happening, where ever it’s happening, rather than ti-vo’ing it until a more convenient time frame presents itself. i’m thinking that this kind of living just might make life, like soccer, a beautiful game.