Sports And Entertainment

Warning: this is going to be an attempt to get a little intellectual. It will probably fail terribly.

So most of you have probably seen Molly Brook’s hockey/sports cartoon, but if you haven’t, you can check it out here. Do so before reading the rest of it.

The relationship between sports and entertainment, or at times the lack thereof, is something I’ve tried to write about a lot in my editorials in The Indian. I never can get a handle on it perfectly, but I think Brooks gets some of the things right here. Though I don’t usually like the comparison of sports to work of fiction, such as books or movies or theater. It’s just not the same thing. But I don’t think she’s making a direct comparison.

A lot of the same themes were touched on by Nick Hornby in Fever Pitch (it was actually a book, and a brilliant one, before it became an awful, awful Jimmy Fallon movie glorifying Red Sox fans and wasn’t even close, and that came after a pretty ho-hum Colin Firth movie about the actual book). You can read that chapter here (don’t worry, it’s short). And if you haven’t read the whole book and even have a passing interest in the beautiful game, go and read it now. Leave work, go home, read it. Won’t take you more than a couple nights, it goes fast.

I think both of these pieces are why I get so angry when my non-sports loving friends or just annoying hipsters (strangely, a lot of Chicago hipsters are huge hockey fans, and it most certainly doesn’t work that way in other cities) scoff at this city’s obsession with its sports teams or my fandom. Because they look at it through the same prism as going to see a band or show, and don’t understand why you’d wrap so much emotion into something similar that you have no control over.

But it isn’t the same. It’s not entertainment. It’s catharsis, it can be entertaining, but it’s not entertainment. Ask Killion if I look like I’m having any fun during a Hawks playoff game. You can ask me the same about him, the answer will be the same. McClure had to sequester himself at home because he was genuinely afraid of what he might do in public. These are not people who are actively enjoying themselves.

The only term I can use is alternate-universe, a contained one at that. But even that’s not accurate, because at least in this universe I have some control. I can go get a hot dog or burrito or something else for lunch. But in sports? Basically my only choice is to leave. I’m locked in.

Quite frankly, the whole thing is absurd. But we do it because real life is not only absurd, but also stupid. Likely, your job pisses you off most of the time. If your married, you feel confused most of the time, or at least that’s the impression I get. Kids? Please, I know all you parents out there spend 95% time exhausted and bewildered, and then you spend the other 5% of the time trying to convince your friends you’re not those things and it’s wonderful. I see through you. You spend a lot of days wondering if you’ll ever get to see another sunset in Rome and knowing you probably never will. It sucks.

So it’s a distraction, but a distraction we can recognize in that it mirrors life a lot. And it ends, and we can take a break, which we can’t from the world. I guess. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just all a mess. But it’s fun to think about.

I’m gonna start drinking now.

  • Dobs

    As both an Arsenal supporter and a huge Horny fan, it simply makes too much sense that I read this (and re-read the Fever Pitch excerpt) right after catching up on the Suarez drama while listening to Ben Folds’ “Lonely Avenue” (which was mostly written by Hornby).

  • SaadBuster

    Nice piece. I loved Fever Pitch (the book, not the movie). I’m a Blackhawks fan, a Cubs fan, and an Arsenal fan. Every season I get wrapped up in these teams. I live and die with them. Reading has been my primary hobby my whole life, but you can’t live or die with a book like you can watching a game. Whether it’s a Hawks playoff game or the Cubs suffering through another meaningless loss in another meaningless season, I’m there. Like the cartoon pointed out, sports are like life because anything can happen. The good guys don’t always win. Games come down to millimeters sometimes and one good or bad play can change everything. The Stanley Cup playoffs only became fun after the Hawks won. Up until that moment, my stomach was clenched like a fist. I still watched though. Couldn’t turn away. If the Cubs ever make a World Series, I figure I’ll drop dead from stress before they even finish singing the anthem in Game One.

  • 10thMountainFire

    I also was once confounded by the anti-sports crowd. For me, those people often spent too much time raging against the machine and felt any fun that didn’t involve ‘making a difference’ was somehow a waste of time. People that serious need not be taken seriously. I went to Comiskey (yes, Comiskey Park) last night and watched Chris Sale toss a gem. Why would I do this for a team that has shit all over its own bed this year? Because I’m a fan. And anyone that spends time criticizing those of us sports-obsessed can go eat two bowls of shit. These people are entirely too concerned with their own image, though they would protest to the contrary.

    Honestly, many people consider themselves contrarians and leave themselves no time to enjoy life. They’re too busy raging.

    Fuck ’em. Because the Chicago Blackhawks are Stanley Cup champions. Again.

    • Why

      Yep. If someone ever asks why you’d waste time loving something that might never love you back, they only appropriate response is to tell them to fuck off.

      They can keep Rome, freshly cut grass and very, very important political discussions. Or they can just congratulate yourself on being so very, very precious that they can recognize that games just aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things. Maybe somebody can write another weepy article about the dangers of sports and all of the moral quandaries that should be caused by concussions, steroid use among teenagers and placing too much emphasis on what could be random chance.

      Fuck them. The puck drops again in two months and I won’t be the only one cheering.

      • 10thMountainFire

        On their deathbeds, they’re going to rue the days they wasted on such irreversible nonsense while the rest of us were cheering The Anthem before the Stanley Cup Final.

      • 1benmenno

        I haven’t been to Rome and haven’t mowed my lawn in two or three weeks. Does that make me a hockey fan?

        • 10thMountainFire

          I think that makes you an Arkansan.

          • 1benmenno

            The vehicle on blocks give it away?

          • bizarrohairhelmet

            And your sister-daughter-wife

          • Z-man19

            Just one? Think that puts you in Kentucky. Ark state minimum is 2 cars on blocks

    • Joe Banks

      He who writes upon these walls, rolls his shit in little balls.

      He who reads these words of wit, eats those little balls of shit.

    • Stockroom Snail

      I make fun of everything in the world, it’s just what I do. A lot of people think that means I hate everything, which isn’t true, I just enjoy making fun of stuff.

      Liking stuff that makes no sense (or is bad) is going to happen because people are emotional first, rational second….and it’s okay. Life can be so miserable, anything that isn’t evil and gives you any joy, any at all, enjoy it, PLEASE. Sports, music, painting your toe nails, do/enjoy whatever brings you even a modicum of joy. Fuck trying to explain or justify everything.

  • cliffkoroll

    Great cartoon, great post.

    Lisa: Perhaps there is no moral to this story.
    Homer: Exactly! Just a bunch of stuff that happened.

    • 10thMountainFire

      Homer: ‘Well, Bart… you tried and you failed. What have you learned? Never try.’

    • rkeign

      Hear, hear. Both express well what I find hard to, i.e. to justify to family and friends my sports-viewing fanaticism. Life, besides being a bitch, is hard to fathom. So, for the lack of sufficient sand to bury my head in, I immerse myself in sports TV, knowing how ridiculous I can appear for my concerns over such irrelevant pastimes. When life’s going gets tough, sports, and particularly the Hawks, are my refuge. I think this would be a good opportunity to thank Sam and the rest of all of you for your entertaining and dedicated posts here and at SCH. It might be insufferable without you guys, especially now that we’re in the throes of the off-season. I know that’s a heavy cross to bear, but with the glory comes the responsibility. /sarcasm (but just this last part)

  • Bannerman

    I’ve often felt like sports was like being in a bad relationship where the other person knows you’ll never leave so they do whatever they want. The good times are that much better since they don’t happen as often.

    • Paul the Fossil

      Not saying you’re wrong, just, yikes.

  • 10thMountainFire
    • 1benmenno

      Maybe Jamal Mayers could fix their wagons.

      • 10thMountainFire

        I think Jamal Mayers is the cure for what ails a lot of people.

  • 1benmenno

    Molly Brooks has got some serious talent.

    • birdhead

      +1. hope she enjoys fabulous success.

  • 1benmenno

    I have never read Fever Pitch but will pick it up tomorrow. In the meantime, I have a book to suggest: Original Six. The review below will show why it’s relevant to Sam’s discussion above:

  • unknown operator

    I thought we traded DUDEBRO13…

    • bizarrohairhelmet

      DUDEBRO is LA’s problem now.

      • VanDorp’sMullet

        I thought Philly signed DUDEBRO to an 8 year $96 million contract this offseason?

  • AirTrafficAJ

    Having been through the Dark Ages of Blackhawks hockey, I can’t think of a better term for these 2 cups other than Catharsis. Or perhaps vindication. Even though it doesn’t wash away the misery from those times, it’s made it all worth while.

    I can only hope the same holds true for the White Sox, because I’m getting some serious flashbacks.

    • 10thMountainFire

      In 2-3 years the Sox will be near the top of the AL.

      Chris Sale will eventually win a Cy Young.

      • StealingHappyHour

        I want to believe this……but I don’t.
        Sale is going to get traded for a bundle eventually.

  • Preacher

    I’ll give the kids thing more of a 60%–40% split of exhaustion vs. enjoyment. And I NEVER tell people it’s easy and not utterly exhausting. And I’m not at all confused when it comes to marriage, just totally grateful. But that’s because my wife is ridiculously good to me (meaning she puts up with an obscene amount of my crap!). And when you combine the sports fandom thing with having your own kids in sports, it’s sort of the greatest/worst form of entertainment/emotional investment/torture/bliss you can get. And, oh yeah, all my kids and my wife are crazy Hawks fans too, so that helps.

  • narya

    The reason I like spectator sports in general–as Molly mentions–is that you don’t know what’s going to happen. Most movies or TV shows, within the first five minutes, you know what’s going to happen. But you never know when a team is going to upset an apple cart, you never know when a player is going to go on a tear, and that uncertainty makes it fun.

  • Gabble Ratchet

    But it isn’t the same. It’s not entertainment. It’s catharsis, it can be entertaining, but it’s not entertainment. Ask Killion if I look like I’m having any fun during a Hawks playoff game.

    Absolutely this. The dominant feeling I have when the Hawks win is relief. Not having to worry about the next gut-churning game after they won was priceless. Relief first, celebration second.

  • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

    “Ask Killion if I look like I’m having any fun during a Hawks playoff game.”

    My wife is a huge Bears fan and was always something of a closet Hockey fan: Liked to watch, didn’t care to learn the rules or memorize players names. That has changed in the Rocky era. She’s REALLY been rooting for Crow. After the 3OT game 1 v Boston, she said, “I’m as exhausted as if I had played the game.”