Saturday, June 13, 2020

Missing the Ritual of Sports


DEBORAH CROMBIE:  I live in a sports-free household, because my hubby does not like ANY sports. Not football, not baseball, not golf or tennis. He actually watched the Superbowl with me this year, which was a wonder. It’s not that he doesn’t understand the rules of football, he just doesn’t care anything about it, and I’ll admit I mainly like the social occasion/event aspect of things like the Superbowl. (And that was a great game, by the way, even for a non-football watcher!)

But I do like baseball--even though he thinks it’s the most boring thing ever invented--and I like keeping up with our local team (that's the Rangers, by the way, not the Astros! Sorry, Houston) in a vague sort of way. We don’t have any paid sports programming, so unless a game is on local TV I don’t see it, but sometimes I listen on the radio.


Texas Rangers vs San Francisco Giants

But this year, zip. Nada. ( I’ve suggested that we watch my favorite baseball movies, Bull Durham and Field of Dreams, as compensation, and got the expected eye-roll.)

What I really miss, however, is horse racing. The Triple Crown races have been a big part of my May and June since I was a child. This year, instead of the Kentucky Derby the first Saturday in April, then the Preakness two weeks later and the Belmont three weeks after that, they’ve scrambled the schedule. The Belmont will come first, on June 20th, with no fans in the stands. The Derby will run September 5th, and finally the Preakness on October 3rd. It feels weird.  Everything is topsy-turvey.


REDS, have you missed sports at all, even as a sort of background for the rhythm of the year?

LUCY BURDETTE: Yes, we really missed seeing the MASTERS golf tournament. And we really, really, really missed the college basketball March madness because we have been huge fans of the UCONN women Huskies forever. And who knows what’s happening with professional tennis for the rest of the summer, I enjoy that too. We have a good friend who is 93 who hasn’t left the house since March. His favorite thing is watching all kinds of sports on TV--I feel so badly for him!

DEBS: Oh, Lucy, your poor friend! I doubt the games they are rebroadcasting are much substitute!


HALLIE EPHRON: I miss baseball. Red Sox! It’s the perfect sport to fall asleep to. My husband assures me that they WILL come to some agreement with the players and there will be a season. Too much $$ at stake. So I hope he’s right.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, great question. I guess...I do love to watch the Red Sox, especially in person at Fenway--it’s such a community, and everyone is happy and engaged (if they’re winning) and hilariously enraged when they are losing.  Do I miss baseball, though? I guess I miss it  more for Jonathan, really. He’s a huge fan, and I’m sad he can’t have the fun of watching the game. 

Yes, the horse races--which I’m not sure about from the standpoint of how happy about it the horses might be--are truly a spectacle, and Jonathan and I have fun betting with each other. I grew up on the Indy 500, and it was truly strange not to have it this year. But everything is strange.


Thinking about fan-less events make you realize how reliant the games are on excitement, and fan participation.  That is going to be so strange, like seeing an event with the sound off. 

And in my world, another casualty is sport reporters.  Nothing to report, except major league players haggling over money. Amazing. And I feel sad for young players just out of college, or just into the big leagues, who’d dreamed all their lives of what they thought this moment in time would be. 

And no matter what happens, I don’t think it will ever be the same.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Like Hallie, I’m missing the Red Sox, and laughing at “the perfect sport to fall asleep to.” There were many, many nights when Ross would listen to the game in the living room while I puttered on the computer, and I would turn around to ask him to clarify some play that had just been called (despite 30+ years of watching with him, I still don’t know all the ins and outs) and he would be snorked out on the sofa.

I’m also missing the anticipation of our local Double-A team, the Portland Sea Dogs. We’ve gone at least once each summer since the franchise came to Maine in 1994 (I remember trying to discreetly nurse the 5-month-old Sailor in the bleachers!) and often, many times more. Watching the national pastime on a sunny afternoon in a small ballpark is about as close to heaven as you can get. Debs, I’ll join you for a double feature of Bull Durham and Field of Dreams!

RHYS BOWEN: I’m a huge tennis fan and former player so I miss Wimbledon. Actually I will watch almost any sport—swimming, track even curling. Just not pool or darts! And I missed my Giants spring training this year too. Somehow watching reruns of old matches just doesn’t do it!

DEBS: Julia, you're on! Can we co-watch on Zoom, do you think?

I'm wondering if they will broadcast recorded crowd sounds for the spectator-less races, just for the horses. They're very aware of the reaction of the crowds and I imagine it's going to feel really strange to them.

READERS, are you missing sports, or happy just to curl up with a book!

44 comments:

  1. We’re not much for watching sports other than figure skating and some of the Olympic Games, so we haven’t really missed sports at all . . . .

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  2. Like Rhys, I miss watching tennis. No Wimbledon, and the big names also came to Toronto/Montreal for the Canadian Open annually, but not this year.

    When I lived in Toronto, I saw some Toronto Blue Jays games. The city went wild when they won the World Series. And although I live in Ottawa, I am still cheer more for the Toronto Maple Leafs than our Ottawa Senators hockey team. The Leafs were a hockey juggernaut in the 1960s but have sadly not won a Stanley Cup since I was born but Torontoians are a loyal, hopeful bunch each year.

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  3. I know Hugh is missing the Red Sox terribly. I don't watch much, but it's nice to listen to it in the background. And he's missing soccer, too. My annual sporting event, the Boston Marathon, was canceled, alas.

    On Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, one of my favorite radio shows, they've been holding "live" shows - I think they are all on Zoom. They've been adding recording applause and laughter from actual lives shows in the past, and it does make it seem more lively to the listening audience.

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  4. I've been watching the Triple Crown races off and on since I was a kid, and I have this friend who loves them, and fixes elaborate race-themed cocktails we can sip as we watch the horses run. I miss getting together with her for those events. The rest? Not so much.

    I didn't realize how little TV I watch these days until I dug out my remote a couple of weeks ago to catch a weather report. The batteries had died. I'm not sure how long ago they died. I haven't remembered to replace them yet. Oh well. I've gone through three+ bags of books since the shutdown.

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    1. I am that friend!!! And I am so bummed we are not able to do our annual race party. Maybe for the Derby... Gigi, remember the time I made Mint Juleps for the Derby and they were so disgusting?

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    2. You are that friend, and I do remember the mint juleps. It wasn't your fault they were disgusting. They're just disgusting.

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  5. Derby Day, which is also Flying Pig Marathon Day in Cincinnati, and opening day for the Reds didn't happen this year. However, a few weeks ago it was all over the Washington Post: Fox Sports would broadcast Bundesliga (professional German soccer) games! The stadiums are empty, crowd cheering piped in for American audiences, and Offenbach can-can music (high kicks, right?) when the home team scores a goal. The players are supposed to socially distance (elbow bumps) and the team support staff wears masks. On Wednesday, June 17th, the Premier League (English football) will resume on NBC Sports. It's been a long haul with no soccer and no Euro 2020 this summer. Happy days are here again!

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  6. We don't watch a lot of sports here, except for the Super Bowl, the World Series, and the Triple Crown. But we do love the Red Wings, our AAA baseball team. Ten bucks a ticket, overpriced beer and peanuts, and a seat on the shady third base line makes for a great summer evening of fun. We are lucky here with said summer evenings, usually gorgeous and comfortably cool. And there are fireworks after the games, something we usually watch from the parking lots. It's a family affair in Rochester, lots of families with children, a grassy area on both sides where kids can play, safely within sight and earshot. Last year I had pneumonia a couple of times during the season, and we didn't go to any of the games, and this year we have to stay home to avoid the plague.

    Football? Any team that doesn't include Tom Brady, although we have a renewed interest in Buffalo. And I rather like golf although I've never played.

    This afternoon we are going to watch Turandot. Perhaps the Met is our favorite sport?

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    1. Ann, opera is DEFINITELY my favorite sport!

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  7. I only watch sport on TV during Olympics games in which Canadians are involved. I'm more in books than on TV.
    When, much younger, I went to watch baseball games at the stadium, I was more interested in the players' bodies than in the game. 😉

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  8. I seldom if ever watch any sports on TV. Or in real life. Much rather read. However, sometimes if I am puttering around in the kitchen I might have something on just to keep me company and that often turns out to be golf. I don't have to watch it but I enjoy hearing the announcers talk in their usually calm and low voice.

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  9. The only sport I truly love is college football (Go Blue!). I'm hoping that by fall we can have football.

    My husband is a Detroit Tigers fan and I think I heard MLB is going to have games with no (or very few) viewers in the stadiums. Because of my hearing loss I have trouble following the games but loved long-time Tigers commentator Ernie "The Voice of Summer" Harwell. When you heard Ernie on the radio it was finally summer. RIP, Ernie.

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  10. I just saw my Facebook year ago memory from today! It is our trip to Fenway Park for a baseball game, with the video of people singing Sweet Caroline. sigh.

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    1. It's like it's another world now, isn't it?

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    2. Yes, I saw that video post on my FB feed this morning, Hank.

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    3. Yes, SO weird. Really other-worldly.

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  11. Not a sport person here, unless I personally know the participants. It was always great fun to watch my kids play soccer, or basketball, especially when my father-in-law was alive to sit next to. He loved seeing his granddaughters play basketball, even though one of them made a whopping six baskets in five years, two of them for the wrong team.

    I also sat on the sidelines of a million track meets and cross-country races (super boring, both, with extremely short bursts of finish line excitement), but I'd do all that again if I could.

    My dad was a huge baseball fan, and some of my longest childhood memories are of him listening to the Reds games on the radio in the 1950's. He was also a Little League umpire, so we tagged along sometimes to games he was umping. In a dark blue SUIT, mind you, with a short-billed cap. That was the official uniform for umpires back then. I was pleasantly surprised to realize I knew a lot more baseball rules than I'd thought when I took my grandson to a game when he was five. Of course, my explanations were as advanced as I could get, but they were perfect for a kindergartener.

    Steve is also not a huge sports guy, despite having played football in high school and college. However, two of my daughters are rabid Bengals fans. You'd think the world turned on the colors orange and black.

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    1. Karen, another track and X-country mom here, and I echo your sentiments. They really are SO boring except for the five minutes your kid is running (at least, you think it's your kid. Better get out the binos.) But sitting in a folding chair on a crisp fall afternoon, or on a bleacher on a warm Saturday in June...that was nice.

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    2. Julia, my middle daughter used to beg me not to come to her meets. But once I started going, and making sure I was at the finish line to watch her cross it, she did 100% better. After that, wild horses couldn't keep me from it, let alone teenaged embarrassment!

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  12. I miss some sports, yes. The biggest was the cancellation of the NCAA Men's/Women's Basketball Tournament, aka March Madness. (Go, Oregon!) Other than that, not so much. I watch a few Mariner's games each year, and the post season and World Series. No racing, soccer, tennis, golf or anything else until college football starts (Go, Oregon!), which seems iffy this year.

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    1. Rick, my family and I are BIG college football fans (Roll Tide!) and I'm going to be SO bummed if there are no games on this fall. On the other hand, as a mother of uni students myself, I certainly don't want any young people risking their health, especially since, unlike the pros, they're not well compensated for their efforts.

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  13. I actually love most sports, and am definitely missing baseball and tennis right now. In a cruel twist of forgetfulness, I recently comforted myself about the cancelled trip to France this summer by thinking, well, at least I can watch all of Wimbledon. Then I remembered . . .

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    1. Oh, I know. I don't play tennis, but I love watching Wimbledon. It's the atmosphere!

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  14. Do animal events count? I watch the Kitten Bowl instead of the Superbowl, the dog shows and the Triple Crown. In the past I watched the Olympic Games, stopped watching after the London Games, don't know why. Too many commercials for me to enjoy most televised sports. I agree with Hank, what about all the journalists who have spent their lives covering this, and the arts commentators too for that matter. May they land on their feet contract wise.

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    1. Yes, that's such a worry, sports reporters and sports commentators.

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    2. Coralee, I mentioned to the other Reds when we were discussing this post, but I heard on NPR that journalists covering the NBA season at Walt Disney World (if it, in fact, comes to pass) will be required to live on-site, "inside the bubble," for the entire three month long season. I can't figure out if that sounds like a dream come true or a nightmare!

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    3. You got my curiosity, Coralee...Kitten Bowl?

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    4. This is a Hallmark Channel event coinciding with the Superbowl. They rescue 100 kittens from shelters around the US divide them into "teams" who "compete" for a championship. This is done in partnership with shelters. The kittens are then readopted by fans. It is funny with a very high "aaaawww factor". ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7BDMnv0qAY )

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    5. Grace, there is also a Puppy Bowl. It has hilarious commentary, and of course the puppies are adorable.

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    6. Ahhh, no Hallmark Channel here in Canada so thanks for the Youtube link.

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  15. Deborah, when you talk about football, do you mean the American football or the European football aka soccer? I love watching the World Cup Soccer. I prefer the European football to American football. That is more my cup of tea.

    Rhys, I can imagine how the Royal Family feels about missing Wimbledon tennis this year.

    Though I do enjoy watching Figure Skating or World Cup European Football (aka soccer in the USA) or tennis, I am more than happy to be reading a book.

    Diana

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    1. Diana, I meant American football, as that is such a big part of the American year. Personally, however, I like watching soccer. And figure skating! I wonder what's going on with that?

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  16. I miss baseball. The Pirates disappoint me every year and I can't really afford to go to games (and I despise baseball on TV), but summer is definitely missing something without baseball.

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    1. I feel the same way, Liz. Baseball on TV is a bore to me, although i saw plenty of it with a book or needlepoint in my hand over the years. But there are a few touchstone events that seem to make summer, and going to a baseball game is one of them.

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    2. I didn't sit and watch a baseball game on TV...it was just turned on while puttering around doing chores in the apartment. Like Liz, I could rarely afford to see a baseball game live, except as a kid. When the Toronto Blue Jays were just starting out as a franchise in the mid-1970s, our family got the cheap faraway seats in the temporary stadium. I remember winning a pair of World Series tickets in 1989 and gave them to my parents who were bigger baseball fans than me.

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  17. Got interrupted and lost my musings. Oh well. I enjoy watching the Triple Crown just to see if one magic horse can do it all. And the back stories are so interesting. I'm a big Astros fan and love Jose Altuve to pieces. But, I don't generally watch the games until playoffs. Go figure. I did the same with the Cleveland Indians years ago when my man was Omar Vizquel. I don't follow pro football anymore since the Browns took off for Baltimore. Phooey on all of them. College football is great fun but I don't expect there to be much of a season this year. Besides rooting for my team(s) I enjoy checking the results and chortling over the upsets.

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  18. I grew up in a non-sports house. The exception was the Olympics, and I still look forward to those every 4 years. I've never cared too much for sports, and I certainly get bored the few times I've gone to see baseball games in person.

    However, I've had roommates over the years who have gotten me a bit more into sports. I understand most of the ins and outs of football as a result now. Heck, I'm even in a fantasy football league with a few former roommates and other assorted friends.

    Since my roommates moved out, I've discovered the joys of having sports on as background noise. I turn my TV on and immediately see what is being broadcast on the sports stations. I will usually have the sound off, especially if I am reading, but I enjoy being able to look up and check out the score every so often. I'm still turning on some reruns, and I'm finding some other unusual things on the stations, but it isn't the same.

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  19. At one point, I would be generously described as a gigantic sports fan. I followed the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAAF, NCAAMB, NCAAWB, WNBA, OLY and more that I'm sure I'm forgetting.

    But as the years have gone on from when my coaching days came to an end, my fandom has lessened a bit. I still follow most of the stuff but at much more of a remove. I basically invest mostly in the Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox. Okay, if the Bruins are doing well I keep an eye on them too but not nearly as much. I'll watch some of Wimbledon and I'd occasionally catch a Cape Cod Baseball League game here in town with the Wareham Gatemen.

    Everything else has become background "music". A lot of the time I'm rooting for laundry instead of players. Some teams I keep an eye on is simply because a favorite player is on the team.

    That being said, I do miss the rhythm and flow the sports seasons provide. I hate that March Madness was Covid-19 and not any of the at least 8 or 9 college basketball tournaments on both the men's and women's side. My friend Brian traditionally took the first weekend of the men's D1 hoops tournament off and from noontime Thursday until the end of the final game on Sunday night, did nothing but watch every game possible. So he really must've been down in the dumps.

    The abomination that is coming in the form of abbreviated "seasons" for the NBA and NHL are going to be a travesty.

    And while others may be more positive minded, I don't for a second think that the owners or players are going to get out their own way for their to be anything resembling a real baseball season. With the black eye that the Astros and yes apparently my own Red Sox have given the sport with the cheating scandals, baseball needed a season of on-field greatness. Instead all we are getting and all we are going to get I feel is an endless stream of ESPN talking heads bloviating about the latest proposal or counter-proposal from either side until it is too late to put a product on the field before Wave 2 wipes out the country for another few months.

    Summer should've been the Red Sox on TV listening to the game as I typed away on the computer and hoping someone would drive in some runs or strike the batter out.

    These days, I spend a lot more time reading, writing or listening to music. Though I don't see me ever becoming sports-free but it is only a part of me now instead of the majority of my makeup..

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    1. Jay, I would definitely say you were a sports fan! But your comment about the "talking heads bloviating" on ESPN made me glad we don't have cable TV!!

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  20. "the Kentucky Derby the first Saturday in April"
    It's in May, not April.

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    1. You're so right, Libby. My brain was absent:-)

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  21. Yes, I am missing sports, even basketball. I grew up listening to the AM radio of my father and grandfather's choosing and it was broadcast home of the local pro teams. "Bye, bye baby" and "tell it good-bye" were part of my summer vocabulary. Going with granddad to a ball game once a year was a special time, and to be clear - ball games are baseball all the others use the full name. Don't ask, just go with it. I miss the local broadcasters, their personalities are part of the game. The reruns of past glorious games are nice but nothing like a live ball game. Go Giants!

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  22. Figure skating is my main sport. I missed the Worlds in March but I think they may do it in September. The other sport I watch is the Triple Crown. During the Olympics, I watch many other sports that I usually don't follow. It's a shame for the athletes who sometimes have a small window when they are at their peak. Stay safe and well.

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