Super Bowl edition. Full title: The Definitive Explanation of Why Many Grown Men Waste Inordinate Numbers of Hours Watching Much Younger Men Play Sports on Television.
Sexist built-in assumption? Guilty as charged. Granted, there are lots of sports-minded women sprinkled in among the men on the sofas of America, but the vast majority of viewers are of the male persuasion. If you’re a female sports television addict, bless you, and post a comment explaining whether my insights apply to you or not.
I probably shouldn’t assume to know why men waste inordinate numbers of hours watching much younger men play sports on television. All I can do is explain why I enjoy watching sports on television.
I grew up playing the sports I watch. I started playing golf at 5 or 6, about the same time I started dominating in tee ball. In Ohio, in elementary school, my friends and I played football and other sports (depending upon the season) after school every single day. The worse the weather, the better. Sometimes I’d want a take a late afternoon off and I’d beg my mom to tell my friends I wasn’t home. Knowing she was bluffing, they would walk right past her and ferret me out. In elementary school, I honed my lethal forehand, my silky smooth “J”, and my otherworldly chipping and putting. Later on, throw in some YMCA swim meets and water polo awesomeness. More recently, running, cycling, and triathlon amazingness.
The previous paragraph exposes a universal truth about men and sports—the older the athlete, the greater the selective perception. We always exaggerate our athletic excellence. I skipped over the time I got chewed out at dinner for heaving a golf club right as my dad was driving home from work; the time I wrapped and tackled the air when one-on-one with a running back who caught a screen pass right in front of me; the time some idiot age group swimmer jumped out of the pool, dried off, and threw his clothes on before I finished the same race.
I’m guilty of wasting inordinate numbers of hours watching much younger men play sports on television for two reasons. The first is nostalgia. More specifically because of positive associations with my childhood. After sitting through a final four-hour round of the Masters, the galpal’s disgust is palatable, but what she doesn’t realize is that I’m in a time capsule. I’m back at Louisville Kentucky’s Plantation Country Club (sure hope they’ve updated that name) nine-hole par three where I was known to chuck a club or two. I can smell the freshly cut grass. I’m back in Cypress California at Los Alamitos Country Club playing two balls by myself after parking golf carts and picking up thousands of range balls. I’m hitting greens and draining putts in the Southern California dusk. I’m fifteen again. I’m not wasting time, I’m reliving my youth.
The second reason is irrationality. More specifically I often fantasize about being in the same position as the athlete on the screen and coming through in the clutch. Ernie Els has a twenty foot putt with 18 inches of break. I’ve made that putt lots of times. Missed it far more of course, but I’ve made a fair share. As Ernie lines up his putt, I’m subconsciously thinking to myself, I could make that. Watching Super Bowl 45 I’ll engage in a similar thought process. A receiver will beat a defensive back and be all alone, but the ball will slip through his outstretched fingers. I’ll completely block out the fact that I run a 7.4 40 and could never, ever get in the same position, I’ll just say to myself, “Had it been me, I would’ve laid out and pulled it in.”
I remember mother dear driving me home from a little league practice once with a bespectacled, bookish, non-athletic teammate. Mid trip he grilled me about why on earth I dove for a ball during practice. Didn’t make any sense to him. Of course if you have to ask, you’ll never understand. Who cares that I was eight and playing baseball and now I’m forty-eight and watching football. Dammit, I would have made the Super Bowl catch. Sometimes a college or NBA player finds himself all alone just outside the three-point line. That’s happened to me several times—in my mind. Each time I nail it. I hold my follow throw while back pedaling to the cheers of the adoring Pauley Pavillon crowd.
Now you’ll understand that I’m not just putting off mowing the lawn, changing the oil in the car, and emptying the dishwasher, I’m reliving my youth and fantasizing about the catch, the long distance putt, the perfect passing shot on a hot, sun-drenched Australian Open hardcourt.