An IDWID sports discussion (mostly Chicago)

When it comes to sports, I don’t write about them. It’s probably for the same reason that I don’t write about music. While I enjoy music and sports, I don’t feel that they fall within my area of expertise, so I’ll leave the analysis to people better suited to it. But I do enjoy watching sports, particularly when there’s something exciting going on. Being in a Chicago-dominated pro sports area, I was raised on the Cubs, the Bears, and the Bulls. Not so much the White Sox or Blackhawks. We’ll get to that in a moment. Here are my random sports thoughts thrown into categories.

Football

As in American football. My favorite sport. Football is fun to watch. I can watch pretty much any football game, especially if it’s NFL. There’s something about football that is inherently watchable. Perhaps it’s the 11 guys on each side ramming into each other, but, no, that’s the stupid easy answer. I think it’s more that football is complex and interesting in the way it unfolds. There’s a lot going on.

Last year, the Chicago Bears went to the Super Bowl. Of course, it’s great when “your” team goes to the Super Bowl. My team hadn’t been to the Super Bowl since the 1985-86 season — you know, the year of the Super Bowl Shuffle. Now there was a team. The 2006 Bears were also a good team. But Rex Grossman? Please. Last week Rex Grossman didn’t play because he was sucking it up as usual of late. Now Brian Griese is in as QB. He also sucked it up (although, to be fair, he’ll need some time to de-rust). There’s a long-standing tradition in Bears football that defense wins games and QBs are mediocre placeholders. I think that tradition needs to change. The QB part, not the defense part. Obviously the Grossman Era was not the answer.

Anyway, what makes the NFL so great, in my opinion, is the brevity of the season. There are 17 weeks, then the playoffs. Every game (except a few) are played on Sunday. It’s like getting your druggie fix on one day and then you detox during the week and can get things done. Plus, every game, since there are only 16, has such high stakes. It keeps football exciting and watchable, and it never wears out its welcome.

Perhaps the reason I can’t get into college football as much (except when the Illini are good, which is rarely), is because there are too many teams and not that cohesive sense of structured madness that you get in the NFL. But that’s just me.

Soccer

Many people outside the U.S. call soccer “football.” This is one of the rare occassions when I will assert the Ugly American and say that American football is football. Non-U.S. football is soccer, and soccer sucks. It’s boring. I would rather watch reality TV than soccer. For all you people out there who love soccer, I don’t know how you do it. That freaking field is too freaking BIG. Soccer to me is like watching guys run around on, well, A BIG EMPTY FREAKING FIELD where there’s no game. Not enough scoring, yada, yada, etc.

Hockey

I frankly don’t care. It just doesn’t work on TV for me. All the usual complaints: Not enough scoring, yada, yada, etc.

Basketball

I can get very excited about basketball, but not in the same way that I do about football. The NFL is entertainment to me, even if I have no stake in the teams or the outcome. For me, basketball requires someone to root for. In 2005, I watched pretty much every Illini game from December on, because they were great. It looked like they would run the table. They almost did. I will never forget the Illinois-Arizona game in the NCAA tournament when the Illini came back from double-digits down and very little time left to stage a miraculous comeback win.

But I don’t watch the NBA the way I used to in the 1990s when the Bulls won six championships. There’s just no going home again. You watch the Bulls now, and even when they’re good, they’re not the 1990s Bulls. And they never could be. The pinnacle was reached, and it won’t be duplicated. In a way, Jordan’s (second) retirement in 1998 ended the NBA for me. Not completely, but I’m mostly indifferent, even when the Bulls are in the playoffs.

Baseball

I’m a Chicago Cubs fan, which means that comes with all the lovable-losers curse-of-the-Billy-Goat-Steve-Bartman haven’t-won-a-World-Series-since-1908 baggage. I am a real Cubs fan, but I’m also a bit of a fair-weather fan who doesn’t have time to watch 162 (or, for that matter, five) regular-season games. I follow the Cubs in the newspaper and catch part of a game here or there, but I’m not a real viewer until the playoffs.

But when the playoffs come, I’m watching. I watched last night for Game 1’s loss to the D’Backs, and I’ll be watching again tonight.

Is that so wrong? Does it make me less of a fan? That I don’t watch until there’s something worth watching?

When the Cubs were on the verge of winning the NLCS in 2003, I was watching every pitch on the edge of my seat. Strange, what fandom does. It’s just a game, but you find you genuinely care, simply because you’ve been a fan since you were a kid. I find that I’m not getting quite the same vibe with the 2007 Cubs. In 2003, a World Series apperance seemed palpable. In 2007 it feels more like a vague possibility. Not sure why.

What I am sure of is that I can’t watch baseball like the NFL. There are simply too many games in the marathon that is the regular season. I mean 162 games? That’s insanity. In the NFL, you could theoretically point to any game and find a moment that could be argued as a turning point in the season for a team. You can’t do that with baseball. It goes on for too long, and I’ve got better things to do.

I also like the White Sox, but it’s more of an “indifferent like” rather than the love of a fan. When the Sox won the World Series in 2005, I was glad, and I watched the games and rooted for them. But a true fan? I couldn’t say it.

Besides, in Chicago, a fan of the Cubs and Sox is almost an oxymoron. most Sox fans hate the Cubs. Hate, hate, hate the Cubs, and go out of their way to mock their fans and root against the team. It seems most Cubs fans are more indifferent to the Sox than active haters, but maybe that’s just my perception (no, it did not look like Larry was about to crack). I do know one thing: When I was rooting for the Sox in the 2005 World Series, I got the feeling most Sox fans didn’t want the support of a phony Cubs fan like me. They almost seemed like they’d prefer I root against them rather than join them.

I don’t quite get it, maybe because I didn’t grow up in Chicago, or more specifically, on the South Side. But come on Sox fans: Don’t be such Cubs haters. Can’t we all just get along, yada, yada, etc.?

Game 2 tonight!

Anyway, now you see why I’m not a sports columnist. It do what it do.

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10 comments on this post

Mappo
Friday, October 5, 2007, 12:43 am (UTC -6)

I agree with most everything you said.

Soccer is so damn boring. It’s like ballet in a sense….I can appreciate that it takes a high degree of athleticism to perform, but it just bores me to tears.

Football is definitely the king of sports. However, I prefer the college game. In the college game, one loss really CAN ruin your whole season if you had national championship aspirations. Now that is high stakes. Also, I think there tends to be more of a sense of team in the college game in general.

“not that cohesive sense of structured madness that you get in the NFL”

Can you explain this a bit further…because I’m not sure I get what you mean.

As a Chicagoan, I like the Cubs too, but it’s a lot harder to root for them now since management has spent so much on the team. They’re basically underachievers, as they should have won many more games with the money spent on the team.

Matthew
Friday, October 5, 2007, 10:44 am (UTC -6)

Football/soccer is fairly boring most of the time, however I have to admit that I can be fairly intrigued by the more competitive matches such as finals, The World Cup, etc. Its more of a social spectator sport though, round here, you go to the pub, have a few pints and watch the match. Sitting at home watching meaningless league games is for the Trekkies of the soccer world.

My personal favourite sport to watch is Rugby, unfortunately my country (Ireland) just had a horrible World Cup, but its still fun to watch teams like the All Blacks or South Africa in action. Plus it was very interesting to see some of the younger teams like Fiji and Samoa really make a convincing attempt this year.

Mappo
Friday, October 5, 2007, 11:30 am (UTC -6)

Wait, wait, wait.

There’s a team called the “All Blacks”? And I thought Redskins was an offensive team name.

Matthew
Friday, October 5, 2007, 11:36 am (UTC -6)

They play in an all black team kit. Its their self-adopted nickname, I guess they like it!

Their pre-match Haka is a sight to behold.

smeos
Saturday, October 6, 2007, 7:02 pm (UTC -6)

Living in Canada, merely mentioning that the NHL is not the inherent god of sports is damn near punishable by death. Nonetheless, Hockey bores me unless it’s the playoffs. Much for the same reason as baseball. There are 82 games in a regular season. The NFL is king and always will be.

Go Seahawks!

B. Stewart
Sunday, October 7, 2007, 11:43 am (UTC -6)

Here we go, the usual Americans slagging off on football (soccer) yet again. I realise it doesnt have a goal or point every 15 seconds and that it requires personal investment in order to care about the teams you’re watching, either pro or con, but it is the most exciting, dramatic and enthralling sport on the planet. I grew up playing competitive soccer and still enjoy playing it more than any other sport. The only American sport that I get truly excited for is NFL football, ironically enough 🙂 Baseball? Nascar? Poker? not sports.. Basketball? Just not my thing. I do love Golf, but that is an international sport, just like football (soccer).

Agreed with the fella who loves Rugby. At international level, it is super exciting to watch. Club level I dont know enough about it though it is getting some exposure here in Canada through Setanta now.

Anyway just wanted to write and stick up for the beautiful game and all its 1 or 2 fans out there in North America!

James
Friday, October 12, 2007, 10:52 am (UTC -6)

Substitute ‘soccer’ for ‘American football’ in that review and bam!

JavaheadJake
Thursday, October 18, 2007, 9:30 pm (UTC -6)

You want a real sport? Try Extreme Ironing.

http://www.natives.co.uk/news/2002/0502/08iron.htm

JavaheadJake
Thursday, October 18, 2007, 9:32 pm (UTC -6)
Chicago Cubs
Sunday, August 24, 2008, 4:55 pm (UTC -6)

100 Years is long enough to wait, this is the Cubs year!

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