As a freshman in college, I live a busy life.
I have 8 a.m. classes every single day, to my own dismay nonetheless. After class, I will usually spend my time gearing up my guitar and slapping down G-chords like only Malcolm Young himself could. Following this, I typically devote time to providing coverage on Quinnipiac’s sporting events, or on certain days assisting in producing an on-campus highlights show. Throw in some talk radio with some meetings on the side, and one has experienced a typical week in the life of Jon Alba.
There is no time for “fanhood.” That has been gone for quite some time.
Thinking back years ago when this website had not nearly come to fruition, I am amazed by the changes that I have undergone personally within the depths of admiration towards professional sports. During this time, I was infatuated with every aspect of the sports circuit. The excitement of launching a career in sports journalism was more than prevalent, and I found pleasantry in every miniscule detail related to athletes coming together and playing a game.
The players themselves were polarizing figures. Giants among humanity, gifted and talented enough that their sheer presence was enough to captivate the most innocent of minds like my own and transport them into a world of sensationalism.
Stadiums and arenas were architectural marvels. They were places of congregation, a religious worshiping place where all its members could come together and jointly believe in their own respective causes, ultimately resulting in a unified and collective wave of cheering and jeering.
We learned to fall in love with teams like the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks as they defied the odds and in only their fourth season of existence took down one of the most prolific dynasties of all-time in one of the best championship series ever played. Or the New Jersey Nets of that same year, who seemingly came out of the depths of hell to capture their first Eastern Conference title. It was a privilege to watch a team like the Baltimore Ravens create a defensive dynamic never seen before in football. At one point, the United States finally learned how to spell “Bourque” after an emotional Stanley Cup Finals, and got to watch a young and exciting Tiger Woods deliver on the biggest stage on multiple occasions.
Over 10 years later, I stare at this computer screen. I find difficulty in writing about this subject, because the passion to do so is not there. Not because I have lost the love for writing, or running this site. Not because I am busy and focused on other things. Instead, it is something else.
I am no longer in love with professional sports.
Why has this happened? Where has the romanticism that I once held gone? Those questions can be answered through a simply theory that I hold. The sensationalism that I used to hold so near and dear to my heart as a young fan has turned to nothing more than arrogant hyperbole.
When confronting this idea, it is important to separate oneself from any biased attachment. After all, as I have learned from many business professionals, it is far more important to be a fan of the game than it is the team. For example, I am a baseball fan before I am a Yankees fan. I am an MLS fan before I am a Portland Timbers fan. To all who will criticize me for this piece, please take this into account before reading further.
Because of this mentality, purity of sport is often one of my most emphasized elements. I miss the days where a “superstar” did more than score 30 points a contest. They rebounded. They assisted. They stole the ball. The times where a quarterback did more than run the wildcat and complete more than four of 16 total passes.
Ballparks and stadiums are no longer defined by those who attend them, but by the money poured into those who built them. Traditions are no longer important, alongside the memories and moments that came with them. There are few Mecca’s left in professional sports, many of which will be gone soon. As these prolific buildings come down in favor of cavernous structures, Bruce Springsteen says it best:
All our little victories and glories have turned into parking lots.
Teams were teams, not a collection of stars. When Michael Jordan had Steve Kerr and Scottie Pippen, they were not the “Big 3.” They were the Chicago Bulls. Salary played into effect, no question about it, but a team’s success was not reliant on paycheck. See the 2003 Marlins.
I enjoy when a player comes out of nowhere and scores 25 or more points for nine consecutive games.
I do not enjoy “Linsanity.”
Feelgood football stories about players who maintain their faith and do anything they can to win are good for the sport.
“TebowMania” is not.
People say that the only thing that matters in sports is the postseason, since that’s where the real magic happens. If that is the case, why even play a regular season? As the old saying goes, they play 162 games for a reason.
Most importantly though, I miss the days of storytelling. In our youth, we are compelled by the idea that David could always conquer Goliath, that there is always a battle between good versus evil, or that those who work hardest will find ways to struggle, yet survive and prosper. Professional sports very rarely sustain this feature anymore. Games are competitive, but the beginning-to-end stranglehold on the audience is no longer there. It is no longer possible to watch every single play of an NBA game without interruption or distraction, the captivation that made some of the sports’ heroes legends simply is not present like it used to be.
No more are they the times of an embattled Sonics squad taking down the Jazz in a double-overtime matchup, but instead they are of how many points “KD” can drop with his eyes closed on Derrick Favors. That’s not a storyline. That’s sickening.
What I am alluding to is what seems to be the reason as to why I get sick of professional sports at times. The aforementioned hyperbole, which is stemmed by the fans and media losing touch with reality. We are in a world where social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, dominate the sports wire. We become subjects of the system, and subsequently play into it. I myself am guilty as well (see the plug at the end of the piece).
We complain about it. Yet by doing so, we only help it grow. There is no need to have Skip Bayless’ live Twitter feed during a press conference on the television screen. Many are offended by its uselessness. But they still watch it.
For that, the end of exaggeration and close-mindedness in sports is nowhere in sight.
Still, the romanticism has found its on ways to resurface at times. Take the final night of the 2011 regular season in baseball, for example. A night full of thrills that saw two of the most remarkable comebacks in sports history reach their climaxes. Toss in the World Series as well, and baseball was back, even if shortly.
Or take Bubba Watson’s recent victory at The Masters, a man known as to having always come “close but no cigar,” finding a way to finish, coupled with the well-documented story of his father’s battle with cancer.
Triumph, heartbreak, and most of all, purity.
The things we love about sports. They were back.
Is it possible that these elements will resurface eventually on a more permanent basis? Hopefully so, but it will require work. It will take for professionals and fans alike to ween off of overtly blown-out-of-proportion stories and take sports for their finest form, and nothing more. If that can happen, the answer is a resounding yes.
I am doubtful, however, that this will be the case. I love professional sports, but I am no longer in love with them. They will always be a part of my life, and ideally, a part of my career. But the spark is gone, the lights are out. The passion and energy is running on empty, and it will take much more than a good playoff series or a 40-point performance by Kobe Bryant to refuel them.
Even so, they say that some types of love deserve a second chance. I sure hope that is the case for me.
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