Wide World Of Sports (As Of Today)

Initial Disclaimer: I know where this posting starts from, I don’t know where it is going (which makes it pretty much a typical rant).

I am a spectator in the game of life. Last night, I watched “my” team’s kickball game at the park. Delta Force won their first game of the season (Go Delta!), despite the fact that they only had about two-thirds of their normal squad. Fact was they only had 10 players (the normal amount on the field at any time) evenly divided between men and women (a mixed couple team layout, each team required to put roughly half of each on a game’s lineup). They played their best game of the season winning 5-2.

One of the principle players absent last evening was watching his daughter’s last lacrosse game (I think she’s in middle school, but I get confused about kid ages…). Also in the park were a couple of adult softball leagues (the park has 6 diamonds). The city of Lansing also has a class A Minor League baseball team affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays and nearby an American Professional Soccer team (designated a Tier 4 league, for whatever that means). Michigan State University is here (technically in East Lansing, but it meets CEFGW* standards) to provide Big 10 level excitement. There’s dozens of high schools in the area, each with the normal regimen of sport teams. And each of the dozens of golf courses and bowling alleys in the area have their allotment of leagues, bringing together testosterone, alcohol, and competition nightly.

So, on any given day, I have dozens of choices where to go to witness competition in the realm of physical battle. From the youngest T-Ball game to the highest echelon of college/semi-pro sports I can spectate to the point of exhaustion. (Please note, I do not consider myself a “fan” as I don’t have a close enough relationship with any of the teams to generate the rabid, zealous devotion that the shortened form of the word “fanatic” requires. Thus the term spectator.)

So, has it always been this way, or am I just more sensitive to the multiplex draws of sports participation in my waning years? Thinking back to my childhood, it was typical (expected?) for young boys to play little-league baseball. High school sports involved baseball, football, track and field, wrestling, and (in the larger schools) swimming. (Oh, yeah, there was basketball, too, but I have a serious aversion to the game so it slipped my mind there for a moment.) My mom’s family were avid bowlers so she was on a league and my dad played golf weekly on a team with a couple of co-workers. Flint (a city about 40 miles away from home) had a minor league hockey team and some of my dad’s friends played “slow-puck” hockey (no serious violence allowed, as the average player age was 40ish), but apart from these examples following sports was done on the radio, listening to teams far away.

A common complaint heard frequently in my circle of influence is “we can’t attend the [INSERT MEETING NAME HERE] because [INSERT CHILD NAME HERE] has a [INSERT SPORT EVENT HERE] game…” followed by a sigh. These people don’t (necessarily) have substantially more children than the families in my youth, but it appears there are SIGNIFICANTLY more opportunities for participation than ever before. I suspect the reason our economy is as robust as it appears to be is simply the result of purchasing vehicles for transporting kids to and from their sporting activities (and the resultant petrol purchases propelling these mini-vans). As I recall, I only had two games a week and maybe as many practices, but I rode my bicycle to and from these events. Twice a season my parents would come to see a game (was OK with that, as I was a horrible player overall, but the team ice cream cone treat afterward made it worth while).

Raising my son in the 90’s was trips to the swim meets, but since practice was at the school and he was there daily anyway there was no extra involvement. It didn’t feel substantially more excessive than my youth. Apparently that changed with the incoming new millennium…

With my disability/mobility issues there are really few options available to me at this time to “participate” in sports, so I am content to spectate. I just need to figure out how to assess and prioritize which events I will be attending to capitalize on my limited resources. Usually, I decline most offers to attend (which frees up about 22 evening hours a week) but have accepted the role of nominal mascot for the kickball team.

There’s really not anything on TV on Wednesday nights anyway….


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(*Close Enough For Government Work)


First To Win Sixteen Is The Champion

My team is in the playoffs. Now that basketball season is over, (I guess they are in playoffs, but living in Michigan the words “professional,” “basketball,” and “playoffs” appear together nearly as often as winning Mega Millions lottery tickets) maybe TV networks can start broadcasting sports for the rest of us. It’s hockey playoff season now and I have had the chance to watch two games today. I have a vested interest in both of them, but for different reasons.

The Red Wings (the Detroit team) lost and are tied at 1-1 for the series. I have a natural affection for them because they are the Wings! I have been following them as long as I have had a radio and could listen to WJR, the better part of six decades. Followed the Tigers for the same time and for the same reason, too.

Over the years, I have had the (dubious) pleasure of working various shifts and times, thus requiring commute travel throughout the day and night. During hockey season, there were times when my Wings were not playing (or at least not while I was driving) so I would scan the AM dial for other stations to see what was available. I eventually discovered WGN broadcast the Chicago Blackhawk games, KMOX sourced the St Louis Blues, and WBZ was the way to follow the Boston Bruins. Depending on weather conditions (thunderstorms were terrible for AM) and the sunspot cycle (something I only discovered halfway through my radio listening journey), I was able to listen to SOMEONE play hockey all season long. What joy!

One of my greatest disappointments in my military career was the too-late discovery that the Boston team played in Chicago the weekend I came home for Thanksgiving of 1975. I could have turkey just about anytime, but the ‘Hawks and Bruins together?

Today, since sports is such a money generator it is nearly impossible to follow games without paying for premium services. The “networks of NBC” are showing every playoff hockey game this playoff season. EVERY ONE! Except that most of the games are on the premium sports network channels on cable. Over-the-air broadcast in my area has two games today and these are the first ones from this series. Altogether there have been eight games played so far (or will at the end of the third period). They only showed half of the games from my local market and won’t show another until game 4 (maybe… I’m not sure they will even play that one). I can see more soccer from England than hockey from North America, and watch 6 hours of golf and 400+ miles of NASCAR every weekend (could watch in theory, they are broadcast every week). But only 2 hours of hockey on a special occasion (normally they might show a game every other week).

It’s not fair. Someday we will have the opportunity to have a-la-carte TV where we can watch what we want, maybe when we want. I’m not talking about DVR, either. I mean we can ask for television that meets our desires rather than some committee in a network headquarters that believe we need another sit-com aimed at a third-grade intelligence.  Delivered in a reliable format (digital over the air is NOT it… at least analogue signals could be watched at 50% signal strength, snow, hiss, and all; digital TV at 50% is mostly black screen and silence) at a reasonable price (preferably free, since the government supports public broadcasts).

And please don’t get me started about the recent trend to add “retro” TV broadcasts to the lineup. Most of the shows I see on the stations in my market rebroadcast programs that we didn’t watch when they were initially shown in the 60’s and 70’s because they were bad. They are not fine wine and haven’t improved with age. About the only thing that can be said for these shows is to prove to the grand-kids we didn’t have HD colour programs back in the last ice age.

Oh, I nearly forgot. I said I had a vested interest in both games today but failed no explain why the NY Rangers versus the Pittsburgh Penguins game would be “must see TV.” True, neither team falls into my favorites list, but if history is any indication of future events, then there is only about a dozen or so more broadcast games left this season to watch. Then a barren wasteland till September brings the 2015-2016 season start.

Any port in a storm…


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March Madness Continues

My aversion to basketball just got worse over the last hour. The brackets are official and everything sports for the rest of the month will be “sweet 16” this and “final four” that. I was able to watch a hockey game (my Red Wings won) and took a nap. when I awoke, it was too late.

I am tempted to just make a truly random bracket (using a coin or die) and submit it to the local pool. Then, if (when, hahaha) i win I can show the video of my method… and maybe they will come up with a better way of spending a month on sports television programming.

WSOP anyone?


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Dealing With The TV Wasteland Of Weekends

Apparently I am radically different from the majority of male-gender viewers of TV. The spring period from the end of the Superbowl through April is a horrible time for me, especially on the weekends. I HATE basketball. I would rather watch figure skating, gymnastics, or NASCAR than hoops. Even golf or bowling is preferable, fishing tournaments and other events that are fun to do but pointless to watch others do holds more interest for me. As a sign of how desperate I am I am spending more time than usual on channels 49 and 51 on my set. These are QVC and the Home Shopping Network. Unless they are selling cosmetics or jewelry, I tend to linger there longer than what would be natural.

I like sports in general. Most any works as a target of my attention, though in fairness it is harder today than in my younger days. Used to be a baseball game taking more than 90 minutes probably had a rain delay. Today it’s closer to four hours than three, and there’s more pitching changes than commercial breaks in the ancient game. Extreme sport programs have a fuzzy lack of appeal to me, probably because I never rode my bike, skateboard, or skis in any manner that would result in a full-body cast like the daredevils on the Dew Tour or X-Games (well, maybe riding down Coutant Street at nearly 30 MPH might qualify, but it was a straight line down and you had to bail before hitting the end as it ended at Main Street… at a curb).

Maybe my aversion to B-Ball comes from my childhood. I was (to put it mildly) not athletic. I was fat, out of breath, and couldn’t run across the street to escape a rabid dog if necessary. I played tennis (if you count running 15 seconds and gasping for breath the next 45 as play). I was in little league baseball, but it was more for the ice cream cone afterward and the t-shirt than to show my prowess at pitching (or fielding or batting or sitting on the bench… well, maybe the last works). I was bad, but at least I played (sometimes).

But when it came to the neighborhood game of hoops, it wasn’t that I was picked last, but that I was not picked at all. And on the rare occasion some team chose (or more likely, was forced) me to play, I never touched the ball. No matter, I couldn’t shoot anyway. Most of the time I didn’t know who was on my team so my usual play was to pass the ball to the first guy to call out “throw it to me.” I would, then watch with dismay as he would go the other way and score easily. And then be pummeled by my “team” mates. It would not take long before I would feign an injury and limp away humiliated (as weak as my ankles were, it often was not really faking it, either).

“But wait!” you say, “you never played football, hockey, soccer, or cricket but you like watching those games. Why not the Man’s Game?”

Ok, you caught me. I like sports I didn’t have personal experience in as well as some I did. I guess the biggest turnoff for watching March Madness is the pointless waste of time the game spends in the first 98% of the game. Almost without execption, the only part of a game you need to watch is the last 2 minutes of game time (at the end, not the other segments…I’m not even sure if there are 4 quarters or 2 halves in the game or if both apply but differ in pro verses non-pro games). Then you either don’t have to watch as the game is a blowout, or you need to put on Depends and take a 5-hour energy to follow through to the end of the game. Two minutes of time on the game clock equates to at least an hour of real time, closer to two if it goes into overtime.

I’d rather watch Frozen again…


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