This is a post I wrote for a friend’s blog that is also running today. Check it out at The Greatest Blog of All Time.
I have been around sports for years. I’m 28 now, and I remember waaaaaaay back when as a little kid playing T-Ball. I don’t know when that was, but it was a long time ago. I was never good at sports, but I have played, and probably more importantly, watched them for years. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all of these years, it’s this:
In order to be a sports fan, you must overreact to everything.
This manifests itself in many different ways. Fans do it, announcers do it, and talking heads do it. And then after you overreact to everything, you have to get mad at ESPN for creating a culture in which we overreact to everything, essentially absolving yourself of any and all blame.
Make sense? No? Good. Let’s look at it more specifically.
Fans Do It
This may be the easiest one to grasp. Lose a game? Fire the coach. Win a game? Sign him to a lifetime extension. It’s really easy to do, and it honestly is a lot of fun. It’s especially magnified in rivalry games. A few years ago, my alma mater beat its in-state rival 45-0. After the game, tons of fans (and I may or may not have been one of them) declared our rival program dead and poised to move up a tier in our conference and begin competing for conference championships. Know what happened the next year? We lost to our in-state rival, and the year after that (and the year following that) we lost to them again (making it 3 in a row) and went 3-9 and 2-10. But you know what happened during that time period? Our in-state rival won 3 rivalry games in a row and took over almost the exact same position we were in. After a 31-3 beatdown last season, they had left us in the dust and weren’t ever looking back. They were poised to compete for a conference championship. Then…we beat them.
Another great example is recruiting. I am admitting this as a full-blown recruiting addict.* At times, recruiting overreaction borders on the creepy. I read a message board post from a guy who had hired a sitter and was taking his wife out on a date to the bar that the recruits were visiting. Maybe overreaction isn’t the right word for that, but it does deserve to be mentioned here. On the flip side, when your rival school recruits well, overreaction gives you a great coping mechanism – they recruited well? Well, they obviously bought the recruits cars or prostitutes or gave them hundreds of thousands of dollars.**
A third, and final, example, is Twitter. Twitter is both the best thing in the world and the worst thing in the world. There are many different ways you can go with this. A recent example would be the Miami Heat’s win streak. Miami won 27 games in a row, falling just short of the NBA’s all time record of 33 games in a row. When the Chicago Bulls beat them, Twitter exploded. The reality of the situation was that the Miami Heat, the best team in the NBA, won 27 games in a row and then lost to a really scrappy Bulls team who, despite some injuries, is a pretty good team. If you read Twitter that night, though, Lebron James is the worst player in the world, the Heat suck, and the Bulls are great. It’s really easy.
Announcers Do It
This one is more awesome. All you have to do is watch any game Gus Johnson has ever called and you know this to be true. And we LOVE Gus for it.
Craven and I spend a lot of time playing the NBA 2K series. We’ll be playing, going back and forth, and one of us (usually Craven) will get a fast break and throw an alley-oop. The announcers, though, will have a series something like this:
Announcer 1: You know, last season, this team 16-10 at home. They really need to…
All the announces: SOIEHGOWIEHFPIUWHEIUNWEOIWEOHEOIUFHWEOFHPWJEBV JDOIWEHFUIWBE IJBWDIUNWIUEB WUIEBF UWEBIUFBWE IUHG WOEIFOIWENCIUWEN CUIBWE UGWE IVE NEVER SEEN AN ALLEY OOP BEFORE
One of my favorite real-life examples of an announcer overreacting (an an example of clueless announcers) is in this video:
Now, overreacting is not always a bad thing. Take this example, from this NBA season as well, of the Houston Rockets announcer:
This is a regular season NBA game in December, so it’s essentially meaningless. BUT this announcer’s overreaction gave me one of my favorite sports phrases of all time.
Talking Heads Do It
So fans and announcers get a pass. Fans often*** have invested much into their teams. They attended school there, grew up going to games, whatever. It runs deep. Announcers are selling an experience, and they typically have the best seat in the house for the greatest moments.
But the talking heads (I’m looking at you, ESPN) are the worst, and they get no pass. Every little thing is picked apart and analyzed and rash statements are made all the time. I really don’t have to go back that far to find proof. A couple of weeks ago, something bad happened to both Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant. ESPN exploded. And all of that happened before we got to the First Take cycle.****
Another example is how the analysts have talked about college basketball (and I’m guilty of this one too). College basketball is being ruined, it’s losing viewership, and everything bad is happening. Wait…what’s that? This year’s NCAA tournament was the highest rated in years, and the national championship game was the most attended of all time, and it was a phenomenal game to boot? You mean that maybe the sport isn’t ruined but these things just have a natural ebb and flow to them?
NO THE GAME SUCKS NOW COLLEGE BASKETBALL IS RUINED NO WAIT NOW IT’S SAVED FOREVER!!!!!!!!!
The problem is, and I’m cutting it short because it’s getting wordy at this point, ESPN does these things because we, the fans, watch it. We vote in all the stupid polls they run, we contribute to the madness. So, in theory, if we want it to stop, we should just stop.
But we don’t, because we love sports too much.
Which isn’t a bad thing. But I have to end this – today’s round of NBA games just ended and I have to go Tweet about how this is the [insert best/worst here] playoffs in history and how the game is being destroyed.
*My recruiting addiction goes like this – I start to get the urge to read everything written about it around August. I largely ignore it, just taking a look here or there once or twice a week. By October, I am all in. Come February, I am eating, drinking, and breathing recruiting (and college basketball), and the day after signing day, I collapse into a post-recruiting haze, swearing it off forever until August rolls back around, then the cycle repeats. It’s vicious.
**These are ridiculous assumptions unless you’re talking about Miami or Cam Newton.
***I say often because Alabama fans exist. If you know any Alabama fans, they probably aren’t from Alabama, didn’t go to school there, and can’t name you a single Alabama football coach besides Bear Bryant and Nick Saban. And if you told them “hey, Alabama has a pretty good softball team, too!” (which they do) they would look at you and say “ROLL TIDE what’s softball again? ROLL TIDE”
****First Take is the worst thing to ever happen to television.