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August 30, 2007

Snooze Sports

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Labor Day* weekend is coming up. That means it's likely that readership will be low for a few days. Which further means that I'm less likely to be lynched or tarred, feathered and run out of town for this post.

So why not have some innocent fun -- in the form of reaming sports fans to the depths of their souls.

[Clears throat, adjusts eyeglasses]

I contend that sports were originally played by folks for interest and enjoyment . No doubt others gathered around to watch, but that was secondary. Nowadays the situation has flipped, especially for professional sports that can't exist without large spectator bases.

Consider baseball. I was never much of a softball player as a kid. But when I was out in the field, I had to pay attention to what was happening. That is, I was engrossed in the game. By the time I was a teenager, I found that I couldn't get engrossed when in spectator mode. As an adult, I came to the state where I could pay attention for the first three innings, got fidgety for the second three and, during the final three I was so desperately bored I didn't care which team won; I was praying for batters to strike out on three pitches.

Besides baseball, what professional sports do I find boring as a spectator? Here's a short list.

  • Soccer ("Football" outside the USA) -- Not much scoring, just a bunch of guys running around a large, grassy field.

  • Tennis -- Someone starts off hitting a ball over a net. Then it gets whacked back and forth over said net two or three times and Poof!! it hits the net or lands in an illegal area and everything stops, only to be repeated.

  • Basketball -- Lots of running back and forth on a court and plenty (maybe too much?) scoring. But much of the time the outcome is decided in the final minutes. So why bother watching the first 90 percent of the game?

Which brave (foolhardy?) readers want to offer their own lists of boring sports? Comment if you dare.



* For non-Yank readers, Labor Day is a holiday held the first Monday in September. It marks the end of summer vacation season and, in many parts of the country, the start of school week. In other words, it's sort of a "last chance" holiday.

posted by Donald at August 30, 2007


Pro football is stupifyingly boring. Can't be watched. The only football that I can watch is college football, and then only when my alma mater is playing. I have a rooting interest in that.

They play too damned many games in pro football. It's the consummate corporate sport, drenched in money and ritual. Half of the players should be in prison.

Pro football is only watchable for about two weeks before the playoffs. Then it is necessary to watch on a limited basis to familiarize yourself with the teams and players that might make it to the playoffs. The conference championships... watch the second half. Only the Super Bowl is ocassionally worth watching in whole.

However, if you are a fan of the comic, Frank Caliendo, you can really get a kick out of listening to John Madden, who is one of the NFL broadcasters. Caliendo does a hilarious impersonation of Madden, who is a complete doofus of the Casey Stengel variety.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on August 30, 2007 12:36 PM

That's easy: all team sports. Can't stand all of them. A bit less boring are individual sports (tennis, gymnastics, swimming, figure skating), but not much.

I much more likely will go to see a dance performance than a boxing match.

Posted by: Tatyana on August 30, 2007 12:37 PM

I'll have to go against the grain here.

I enjoy them all. I enjoy athletes, competition, strategy, execution, everything.

I do not subscribe to cable television out of self-knowledge. If I had cable, I'd spend too much precious time watching everything from NASCAR to bowling to golf to baseball to swimming to WNBA to wrestling (the entertainment style).

I love to follow sports, and keep up with all I can through the WWWeb, radio, and newspaper.

I come by my love honestly via my father. It was what we loved doing together the most.

By the way, I totally understand how and why others do not love sports the way I do. There's plenty not to like. I'm sure this thread will exhaust that plenty!

I'm hooked, though.

Posted by: raymond pert on August 30, 2007 12:59 PM

Great impersonations grow out of the impersonator's enjoyment, even love for the subject. I agree totally with Shouting Thomas. Frank Caliendo's impersonation of John Madden is brilliant: and it grows out of Caliendo's high regard for Madden. It's hysterical and almost an homage at the same time. And, his impersonation fully exploits Madden's buffoonery, which Caliendo (and I) find more endearing than annoying.

I understand, though,why many find him irritating.

Posted by: raymond pert on August 30, 2007 1:05 PM

Funny descriptions of the various sports.

I loved following pro sporst as a kid, but since then ... The only pro sport I've followed much at all (and only spottily) has been tennis, mostly women's tennis. Lots of drama there, though I do wonder what people who don't actually play tennis get out of watching it. Seems to me that you've got to have some experience of the court to understand what the pros are up to, otherwise it probably just looks like a lot of whacking and athleticism. Maybe that (combined with the eternal drama of who's gonnna win?) is enough for many, though ...

When I do spend a little time watching pro sports on the tube (friends, bars, etc) I'm always surprised how hypnotic it is. I'm sort of glad I don't follow it any longer -- who has the time? Also, these days it's all so flashy, the guys are so pumped up, the commercialism is so relentless ... Despite the great athletes and the excitement and all I find it kind of rips my eyes and brain apart. Plus the guys are so big and so athletic that I no longer feel any connection with them -- they're creatures from a different species than me. So I'm curious and awestruck but make no human connection with them.

Every now and then I'll attend a local baseball game or watch some high school or minor leagues sports in person, and that's completely different. I love it. Love the scale of it, the connection, the amateur-hour quality of it. Real people having a fun and zany time doing these oddball things humans seem to get a kick out of. I went a few years ago to an evening of local dirt-track car racing in the western New York countryside and had a great time. I think I'd attend sports live in person regularly if I lived near a minor league team or dirt track racecourse ...

Posted by: MIchael Blowhard on August 30, 2007 1:10 PM

Yes, raymond, sports was what I shared with my father, too. We played out in the back yard when I was a kid, and he was always one of the coaches of my teams.

Our teams were the Cubs and the University of Illinois. My dad never got near a college. To him the U of I was its football and basketball teams. So, I continue to this day to dutifully watch the Cubs and the Illini. In fact, I just bought an internet package from so that I can watch every Cub game on the internet. They might make the playoffs this year. More likely, they will fail in some spectacular and heart breaking way.

The Cubs and the Illini remain part of that bond with my dad. This was so beautifully portrayed in "The Natural."

It is almost as if the day when the Cubs finally win the world series, or the Illini win the national championship will be the day of redemption. My dad's great dream for me was that I would play for the Cubs or the Illini. He had a very hard time accepting that I was a musician.

So, when I watch the Cubs and the Illini, it is as if Dad is still here with me. We're still waiting for that day of redemption.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on August 30, 2007 2:13 PM

I find most sports boring if there isn't a rooting interest. Like, baseball games are awful, unless its the World Series and the hometown team. Plus, I do like the big venues---the final of the U.S. Open is more interesting to me in watching tennis than the first round, especially now that I really have no emotional connection to any of the current players.

I heard a funny story about hockey the other day. A guy said he just couldn't get next to it---the scoring seems like it even surprises the play-by-play guys. "Joe Huckenshcuk passes to Bruce LaBatt who was traded from Montreal last year and has been below his scoring average----OH MY GOD! HE SCORES!!"

Posted by: annette on August 30, 2007 2:21 PM

Just to put my comment in perspective before I start foaming at the mouth. From kid-dom to my early 30's I've participated (avidly and a lot less so) in football (American and Res-o'-the-world type), hockey, baseball, softball, tennis, swimming, track, cycling, & skiing (X-country and downhill). I only do the latter and that, unfortunately, not as frequently as I'd love to.

As a spectator, I'd place figure skating as the biggest waste of time watching (with apologies to the fine athletes partcipating in this boring product),(American) football as the next most boring (Too little intense action over too long of a time) with professional b'ball a close third. Track & field are not transfixing, at least on tv.

Hockey is still the most exciting spectator sport (although tv has yet to capture it well, with the possible exception of Hockey Night in Canada) and (I feel as if I have to apologize here) (Rest-o'-the-World) football coming in second. Surprisingly, I found NASCAR races quite entertaining when I was at a track as I'd been used to clicking the channel changer immediately when I saw a race on tv.

But American football and figure skating? Boring both live and on tv, although I do agree with the various comments regarding the masochistic enjoyment one gets from listening to pro football commentary.

Posted by: DarkoV on August 30, 2007 3:24 PM

Maybe when you're young the players are - God help me but I have to use this term - role models. But later? What's to identify with?

So true (annette's story) about hockey. Your team won'd it happen?

Posted by: ricpic on August 30, 2007 3:39 PM

I've always thought of baseball as the hallmark sport of The Age of Radio. There's not a lot of visual interest, but the langorous pacing and cyclical flow of events is perfect for narration to an audience who are listening to it in the background at the barbershop or the beach. Baseball is the only major sport I can think of whose events regularly take place during the work day -- again, much of the audience would be listening to it while they did other things. No wonder it's a snooze to watch.

Posted by: Chip Morningstar on August 30, 2007 3:52 PM

The NBA is now a blur except for the scandal about the cheating ref. Baseball is meant to be torturous; Harry Carey understood that when he sang during the seventh inning stretch.

Posted by: David Thayer on August 30, 2007 3:54 PM

Hey Annette!
Re. that hockey story: Reads to me as if the play-by-play announcer in that story was really a baseball p-b-p guy who was recruited for a one-time hockey gig. Any hockey p-b-p guy would know you don't have to have filler for your spiel as in hockey something is always happening whereas in baseball (a game I love to watch) nothing happening is still its charm.

Posted by: DarkoV on August 30, 2007 4:37 PM

I'm a big sports fan, but I can agree on soccer. Snooze-fest.

Love baseball, though, as most who are raised with it do, I think. And have to disagree about tennis, which I think is the best spectator sport in many ways -- but I only watch the big tournaments. Pro football requires some kind of wager to make it fun, and then it's very fun.

Soccer's the only one I can really throw out. I even like golf!

Posted by: JMW on August 30, 2007 4:44 PM

Every now and then I'll attend a local baseball game or watch some high school or minor leagues sports in person, and that's completely different. I love it. Love the scale of it, the connection, the amateur-hour quality of it.

I agree here with Michael. As I get older I also find that I enjoy youth and high school sports more. I got tracked into that partly because of following my children: Lauren played volleyball in high school and college and Travis played American football and baseball in high school. Since we've moved, I've been watching the local high school football practice and will likely go to some of their games.

I enjoy American football, college more than NFL. Growing up in the South seems to have put that in my DNA. We're going to the Colorado - Colorado State game Saturday. I follow the Broncos.

I can't watch NBA basketball anymore. They've messed the rules around so it hardly looks like basketball anymore - everybody take 3 or 4 steps now.

I don't enjoy hockey. I might feel differently if I had grown up with it.

Since my kids played youth soccer (another sport I didn't grow up with) I at least know the rules and understand what's happening when I watch it. But it has no emotional appeal for me. I'll usually watch some World Cup games.

Baseball has lost me. Unless I know some of the kids that are playing.

Posted by: Reid Farmer on August 30, 2007 4:47 PM

Professional sports??? Waaayyyy too much money involved for the concept of integrity to intrude. And the athletes themselves...please. I've hung out with some of them. If you're the type who likes to go drinking with construction workers and thugs, you would love these guys. Their sparkling conversations run the gamut from pussy, cars, whup-ass, and back to pussy again. Remember, you put money into their hands every time you watch the tube.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on August 30, 2007 4:50 PM

Cricket and rugby are the pick of sports to watch. They're also tremendous to play. Squash and badminton are fun to play but dire to watch. Soccer often boils down well to a 10 minute "highlights" broadcast. American Football is too camp for my tastes.

Posted by: dearieme on August 30, 2007 5:44 PM

Most team sports are incredibly boring: football, baseball, basketball, cricket... although I used to follow all them passionately, aside from cricket, when I was a kid.

Aside from the short track events during the Summer Olympics and the ice hockey during the Winter, the Olympic games, for me are unwatchable. The female figure skating events are more aestheically pleasing, but I could give a damn about the results.

The only team sports I currently enjoy are rugby (particularly international tests). I can't wait for the World Cup to begin. I like watching ice hockey a great deal, especially live, but haven't really followed the NHL ever since the first lockout in '95. This week I watched a broadcast of game 4 of the 1978 Stanley Cup finals between Boston and Montreal. Now that was hockey!

World and European Cup play in soccer's good too. Although I only got around to watching the semi-final and finals of last year's tournament; whereas I watched nearly every match of the '94, '98 and '02 cups.

Aside from test rugby, the only sports I really follow are combat sports: the UFC's great and still like boxing a great deal.

Posted by: phil on August 30, 2007 7:00 PM

I'm not much of a sports on t.v. kinda guy. I was astonished, however, by how much fun it was to watch my six-year-old son play T-ball. Every Saturday morning I'd go over a park, set up my folding chair in the shade, enjoy a lovely breeze, sip my drink and watch goofy kids fall all over themselves playing baseball. The suspense factor of what would happen when a kid would try to field a ground ball was riveting; the outcome was rarely "correct" but always entertaining.

We then went to a father-son professional game at Dodger Stadium, which was, well, robotic. The players all performed perfectly; unfortunately, it was perfectly boring.

The whole experience made me realize what a great form of entertainment live, local sporting events are. They're cheap, diverting, open-air, unpredictable and goofy! Where sports are concerned, I'd have to vote for the 19th century experience every time.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 30, 2007 8:37 PM

Cannot begin to count the number of times baseball fans have explained to me the "chess game" that makes it all fascinating. Yawn.

The king of sports is on right now -- LSU vs. Miss State in an SEC shootout. Life is good.

Posted by: Glenn Abel on August 30, 2007 11:00 PM

I think George Will can be forgiven a lot for coming up the classic description of (American)football--extreme violence punctuated by committee meetings.

College football (Go Vols!) is the only sport I watch, and I find a dozen or so games each fall satisfies my very low interest in athletics. I also enjoy watching figure skating (women's or mixed) without caring about the competition.

I'll occasionally come across a current or classic boxing match on TV that holds my interest.

Other than that, I'd rather watch the weather channel.


Posted by: Narr on August 31, 2007 11:36 AM

Put me squarely in the "I hate football" category. Sure, the NFL is the world's richest and most successful sports league, though the English Premiere (soccer) League has higher per-team revenues, but football has long since become television's whore. Consider this: the NFL allows for 15 minutes of TV commercial time per quarter. Plus however many commercials can be squeezed into halftime. What this means is that when you watch a game on TV, which normally runs about three hours start to finish, more than one-third of the time you'll actually be watching commercials (most of which seem to be for cars, beer, life insurance and limp-dick drugs). As for actual play, you're lucky to get 12 to 15 minutes of snap-to-whistle action over that span.

What's almost worse is the relentless pressure our society places on people, men at least, to be football fans. If you don't like the sport you're considered to be weird and maybe even on the fruity side. No such pressure exists with respect to any other sport. You can hate baseball, basketball, NASCAR etc. and no one will think any less of you. But the Almighty NFL, that's another story.

Posted by: Peter on August 31, 2007 12:03 PM

After my anti-football screed I probably should be more positive and mention the sports I actually like. I'm a big fan of combat sports, both boxing and mixed martial arts, though I'd give an edge to boxing. One major drawback is that so many boxing and MMA matches are on pay-per-view. Some other boxing matches are on the extra-cost HBO and Showtime networks. While I greatly deplore this, and would be tickled pink if PPV somehow could be outlawed, there nonetheless is a fairly decent amount of boxing and MMA to be found on free television if you look carefully. The Versus network, formerly Outdoor Life Network, has been particularly good in showing combat sports.

My other favorite sports are definitely an eclectic selection. I'm a big fan of bull riding, which is once again shown on Versus and occasionally on Fox, and one of the few good things about Sunday nights are the drag races on ESPN2. Weird, I know ... I have no interest whatsoever in NASCAR, by far the most important motorsport, but like drag racing. There's something elemental, almost primitive, about drag racing, and come to think of it bull riding is the same way. It's hard to describe. I've seen very little rugby but have liked what I have watched; fortunately, Versus is going to be showing some matches soon. Rugby is what the NFL should be like. Track and field meets might seem boring to most people, but I'll try to tune in whenever they're being shown. As an utterly gratuitious aside, men who watch women's tennis or beach volleyball for the "cheesecake" factor ought to watch track meets. Women runners, especially the sprinters, have terrific bodies, and they generally don't bother wearing much in the line of clothing :)

As for the major sports, I can take or leave baseball. It's okay, nothing special. The NBA and especially college basketball can be exciting, though time-outs are really starting to damage both games. And as mentioned, I don't like the NFL or NASCAR.

Posted by: Peter on August 31, 2007 1:00 PM

Better to be waterboarded than watch any skateboarding or snowboarding event.

Watching women play sports is like viewing a bad TV sitcom, except for figure skating, gymnastics and beach volleyball.

Posted by: James M. on August 31, 2007 1:03 PM

Oh yeah -- they're all boring. Except maybe for hurling...

...and reindeer racing...

(Could GOLF possibly get MORE boring???)

Posted by: Jun on September 1, 2007 8:07 PM

I once attended a pro basketball game. Beyond boring. Every 30 seconds or so a giant from either team would drop the ball through a hoop with no effort at all. Play would stop. Rinse and repeat. The game was constantly interrupted and I lost interest.

High school basketball was much more interesting, but then I knew the players personally.

Posted by: miriam on September 2, 2007 2:46 PM

Most professional sports bore me to tears.

On TV, that is.

I’ve yelled my lungs out at pro hockey games.

In fact, aside from a weakness for televised darts and snooker (which I love because of the insane seriousness that everyone there treats them with), AND a liking for French Open tennis that goes back to my younger days in Paris, I don’t watch TV sports. Most of them are either too slow or boring or interrupted by commercials. And I can’t watch figure skating because I always think that the skaters will fall just as soon as I’ve begun to get emotionally involved with their efforts.

But I love to watch kids and teenagers play amateur sports, and I yell my lungs out there for my nieces and nephews...

Just a side note here about televised hockey. The announcers on Hockey Night in Canada took years to hone their craft. I stopped watching TV hockey when I realized that many US announcers could barely comprehend what was going on, and then when they brought out the brilliant idea of a "glowing puck" to help the viewers at home follow the action... well, that was the last straw.

Posted by: Alex on September 4, 2007 11:29 AM

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