A large number of the people who know me probably don’t know that I’m a sports fan.
It is understandable. They don’t come over and find sports on the television. They don’t see me walking around wearing sports-themed clothing. They don’t catch me checking game scores when I should be doing something else.
All of this is because I don’t watch sports very much.
For me, in order to be interesting as a viewer — participation is a different matter entirely — a sporting event must fulfill two of three criteria.
1. It must be live, not televised.
2. I must care about the outcome.
3. The game/event must be an important one to those playing.
Let us take men’s professional hockey as an example.
In September every year, each team in the National Hockey League comes together. They begin playing pre-season games, which even they concede are not important. Then, from October through April, each team plays eighty-two hockey games. These eighty-two games are used to determine which sixteen teams (of thirty total) qualify to play in the championship tournament.
Over May and June, each qualifying team plays up to twenty-eight further hockey games to determine the league champions. These games are grouped into sets of seven head-to-head games between two teams, with a team losing four such games being eliminated.
Hockey’s format is not unique — it is, in fact, fairly common.
Rabid hockey fans watch each of those eighty-two qualifying games breathlessly, measuring their performance against other teams to see if they are in the top sixteen. They feel that every game is important.
I don’t. I simply cannot. More than half the teams qualify. Even the first round of the playoffs is rarely interesting enough for me to tune in on a television set — though at least in hockey the bad teams have a chance against the good teams in the first round. In some sports (I’m looking at you, basketball), those teams that barely qualify win so rarely that their inclusion in the playoffs looks like nothing more than an excuse to sell additional tickets.
I will watch a qualifying game if the team I cheer for is on the bubble towards the end of the qualifying schedule. I will watch a qualifying game if it is live and includes the team I cheer for. These each meet two of the three criteria.
Also, in sports these are called “regular season games” and not “qualifying games”. That is just marketing spin. They would have a hard time selling tickets if they were being blatant about it.
Which brings us to baseball.
Baseball is the worst offender of all sports. Baseball teams play a whopping 162 qualifying games every year. Once the baseball season begins, they play almost every day — ensuring that the athletes are anything but fresh, and surely lowering the quality of their performance. This combines to make a “regular season” baseball game a grind.
But yesterday the World Series began. The final set of games that will determine 2010’s champion.
I was expecting to be excited about these games. In the National League corner, the Philadelphia Phillies looked strong heading into the playoffs. The Phillies team boasts my favourite player — former Toronto Blue Jay Roy Halladay.
While I am not traditionally a Phillies fan — in fact, one of my favourite baseball memories involves the Phillies as the “bad guys” — I am happy to cheer for Halladay. So I had a team to cheer for.
In the American League corner, the New York Yankees looked poised to once again return to the World Series. I hate the Yankees, which pretty much only means that I pay attention to baseball and am not from New York. (As an aside, do any other ex-pats wonder about those people who wear Yankees hats, but — as they are British — clearly do not watch baseball, and probably cannot name a Yankee player? I do. They do not know the sin they commit.)
A team to cheer for. A team to cheer against. Crowning a champion. Yes, this year looked like a good year for watching the World Series as best I can from across pond.
And then the unthinkable happened. The Yankees lost to the Rangers. Despite the Yankees being a team I cheer against, and despite them losing, I felt a little robbed.
Then the Phillies lost to the Giants. And suddenly the World Series is being played between two teams I couldn’t care less about, either way.
So good look, baseball Giants and Rangers. I won’t be watching.