Yeah, I pretty much could care less about pro sports. Thank goodness for the sports teams that my feelings are not more wide spread. I’m a rare bird having this opinion. In fact, I grew up enjoying playing sports… mostly softball and playground football. So how did I become to feel this way? Many reasons actually.. but like many things in life it was evolutionary to where I am today.
I don’t know really what might have set off my disinterest for professional sports. My earliest recollection is that adults all seemed to be consumed with it; my dad always listened or watched the Cubs and Sox games on the weekends, and later on would watch whatever football game was being televised. When there were family get-togethers for holidays the men would gravitate to the TV after the meal and watch a game (some things never change). Why I never jumped on their bandwagon in the beginning is a bit unclear. Watching baseball on TV is extrodinarily tedious but not as bad as golf and bowling; that’s like watching paint dry. I think maybe I simply preferred watching entertaining TV.. and given there were not many TV stations in those days, many of my shows got pre-empted for various sports events… especially on weekends. Then every couple years the Olympic Games would consume the available TV schedule. I mean, Felix the Cat or Bugs Bunny made more sense to me than watching a guy fling a javalin or ski around a bunch of flags stuck in the snow somewhere.
Like I said, I enjoyed playing certain sports. Softball I was good at… soccer… even touch football. I was not a completely inactive, non-physical nerd in grammar school. In fact, in the couple years I had a newspaper route (years before paper boys were stalked by pedophiles) my legs got pretty strong peddling my bike-ful of newspapers every morning and my arms were well-toned from flinging heavy Chicago Tribune’s and Chicago Sun Times on the run. One day I woke up and found out I was the second fastest runner of the 50 yard dash in my entire school. When I graduated from 8th grade some high school coach wanted me to join the frosh-soph football team. But I really had no interest for any serious competitive sports. I was more cerebral and preferred my time directed toward other venues.
My dad loved listening to the baseball games as he did fix-it projects around the house. Occassionally, when he would be in a remote location around the house where he couldn’t run an electric cord to his portable radio, he would use my transistor radio… which I would use to listen to rock music of the day if I was stuck doing a project, like painting the (damn) picket fence. In fact, on any typical summer day in Chicago you could walk down our alley and occassionally hear a radio set to a Cubs or Sox game eminating from some yard or garage.
Speaking of which… I did go to many Cubs games during my summers off from school. Me and a buddy or two would take the bus and elevated train (at the age of 11 and 12, mind you) and head to over to Wrigley for an afternoon. There was a basic excitment of the crowd… and of course, the food. Was I there so see the players and the games? Kinda sorta.. but that wasn’t the draw for me. I actually preferred watching the news and sports announcers in the press box coming and going… as I liked to watch the WGN-TV cameras move with the ball. Yeah. Way nerdy for sure.
After the games we’d hang around a side entrance and wait for the players to leave for the parking lot to get their autographs. These were the days where you could get away with that as there weren’t a lot of fans lurking as you might expect today. I don’t know how many times I got Ernie Banks to sign my program… or Billy Williams… or Ron Santo… or Dick Ellsworth. I would even get famous sports announcer, Jack Brickhouse to sign. I’d take the programs home and sooner or later they would end up in the trash. Yeah.. it sickens me to this day as well. In spite of my relative disinterest in pro sports I was a baseball card collector in the heyday of collecting baseball cards. I had shoe boxes full of them. And over time.. they too ended up vanishing (just like my comic book collection). Back then we gave little thought to 40 years later what that stuff might be worth (and when I think of all the comparitively worthless stuff that has survived those days till now… ugh!).
Old habits die hard and I carried my relative disinterest in organized sports into high school. I went to the football and basketball games primarily because it was the high school social event of the moment, there was the excitement of the crowd and rooting for your school, and of course the girls; from the cheerleaders to the chicks in the stands. But as we all know, the hot chicks like the sports jocks; another reason to not like sports (I was in ROTC and while today a uniform is respected and might hold a chick’s interest, in those days even us uniformed high school ROTC guys were considered “baby killer” wannabes).
Anyway.. by time I reached adulthood all the who-cares-about-sports imprinting was in place. Then came the seeming endless tirades for years coming from players of all sports about not getting enough money. Even a low end paid player will likely make more money than I will in my entire life.. yet they all seem to bitch about it. They all cite the idea that their years of effective playing are in a tight window of years before age takes over. You mean, you need to make ten lifetimes of pay just because you won’t be able to play your sport when you age? Well, shucks. Can I demand that of MY employer?? Sorry.. I can’t identify with sports players. They can’t even decide if what they do is true competition or pure entertainment. The sports owners and organizations can’t even address the misuse of drugs among the players, or, most importantly, seem unable to counsel their own players on what to do with the instant wealth and fame. You mean, as a football player you want to sue the organization because you’ve gotten clobbered in the head so often playing the sport and now all those concussions are giving you headaches? Um… and you didn’t know this was a risk before you signed the contract for 1o zillion dollars?? I think you get my point.
Then there’s the sports fans. Amazing obsessions those people have. Yeah, I’ve been to a couple Bears games and I thought the tailgate parties were cool… but I think it’s totally nuts watching any spectator sport in cold, bleak weather.. rain and snow. Why? You mean they played a football championship game in Green Bay with the temperature at 15 below zero and the stands were packed.. and you see nothing wrong with that?? (refering to the Packers/Cowboys 1967 game.. also called the “Ice Bowl”)
Now, when I was in business for myself and in the corporate world I did in fact, feel obligated to at least give some passing attention to current sports events so that I could talk the universal language with business contacts. Usually on the way to such meetings I would flip on the car radio to get a current scoop.. then I wouldn’t sound like a total nerd when the casual chat got “sporty”. I was pretty good at it too. I would generally skirt the discussions about stats, the latest draft choice, or why some team was dropping one guy to pick up another. I would focus on the day’s events; if it wasn’t who won/lost today’s game I would talk history.
Well, now that I am entering my declining years I still could care less about pro sports. I know it’s part of Americana and all that… and I know that it’s also a money-making industry employing many people beyond just players. But the fans are way too obsessive and the players complain way too much. But somehow I did manage one thing… I caught the eye of a former cheerleader type… and I’m not a sports jock! Better late than never!