We all have our vices.
Mine include: a daily weekday stream, upon waking, of the Dan Patrick Show; a scan of Tweets from various sources, most prominently (as he knows, because I Tweet him with regularity, like a lunatic) Richard Deitsch, Sports Illustrated’s media reporter; a propensity to cycle piece after piece after piece through any kind of athletic coverage, be it the weekday blog of my preferred hometown sports columnist, or some sudden column debunking this week’s latest NFL myths, or FR’s own Travis, who writes weekly during the NFL season brilliant comedic pieces melding his love of football and (rather expert) insights into gambling, an element which (whether we want to admit it or not) informs a lion’s share of this country’s obsessive devotion to professional football; visits to SI.com, FoxSports.com, CBSSports.com, ProFootballTalk.com, MLBTradeRumors.com, and so on.
I eat this shit up like slow-simmered scrambled eggs. A whole lot of us do. It’s sports. We love it. They mean, in theory, nothing, but we have an appetite, insatiable. You may not like football, but maybe you like hockey. You might think baseball boring, but you’ve got a taste for the NCAA tournament. So on, and so on.
This past week, as anybody with access to the Internet knows, a college football player named Manti Te’o was exposed, or not exposed, or humiliated, or some such passive verb, as the perpetrator, or non-perpetrator, or victim, of a colossal scam involving a fictional person whom we sports fans came to know as his loving, inspiring, cancer-expired girlfriend. This very evening, Te’o offered an off-camera interview to ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap, an interview about which details were scattered on SportsCenter, about which Twitter went into a tizzy before and after, and which, in essence, told us fans we hadn’t known or assumed days prior. In the churning wake of Lance Armstrong’s two-day Oprah-enabled assault on our obsessions, no less.
This is not why we love sports.
Yes, we are human, and we by nature are aroused by sensation. Such stories arouse like porn. A finalist for the NCAA’s highest personal honor exposed as the perpetrator/victim/both of a sociopathic scam? Bring me the details. An interviewed victor, seven times strong, of a tournament long regarded as a chili-pot of cheaters pulsed by illicit chemistry? Gimme more.
These phenomena make good copy. They make great conversation. They give us something to enable and further debate. Conversation. Mutual bafflement.
They. Are. Not. Why. We. Love. Sports.
We love sports because we find joy in physical exuberance. We love sports because we ally ourselves with teams for reasons geographical or psychological. We love sports because it is inspiring to enjoy the vision of physicality, or mentality, or both, at their peak, via visceral, visual evidence. We love sports because they get us excited. They break our hearts, our teams, our athletes; they fill said hearts, too, when they succeed. We do not love sports because they are tabloids. Exactly the opposite.
I’m tired of Manti Te’o, no matter what his story may or may not be. I’m exhausted by Lance Armstrong, a sociopath minus murder should one ever exist. I love my social media; I love my sports discussions; I celebrate that I can connect with even the most random unexpected acquaintance based on so much as debate over an upcoming contest.
I hate this past week. I’m done with it. Yes, these tales are addictive, and others will further addiction when they come to pass. I’m as much an addict as anybody. We constitute a story-hungry, salacious global audience, be the medium sports or other.
But, as noted: those kind of stories?
They are not why we love sports.
If that seems overdramatic, I’ll put it another way.
I just want to watch some fucking games.