Planet Paige, circa 2006
Traditionally, sports stories are printed in the sports section. The stories contain winsome nicknames, and are accompanied by photos of contorted bodies. A large part of the reading experience seems to be acting outraged about the stories for one reason or another. That’s when the sports fans start calling each other names.
I don’t pretend to understand it, but to each his own. As long as sports stories stay on the back page – where they belong – I will keep my thoughts to myself.
But lately, sports have refused to be confined to the stadiums. They’re sneaking onto our news pages, where a conscientious sports objector can’t help but notice them.
News item: The NFL has redesigned the uniforms for its referees, with a “flashier” look that will “flare” at the upper arms and complement the “traditional white knickers.” It’s an improvement, an NFL spokesman noted, over the bow ties and beanies that referees wore in the ’30s.
News item: The pro baseball slump in Japan has organizers so concerned that they are selling ticket packages that feature Kentucky Fried Chicken and all-you-can-drink beer.
News item: The coach of a champion sprinter has accused a vengeful massage therapist of spiking the athlete’s massage cream with testosterone – giving Tour de France winner Floyd Landis all sorts of ideas.
Fashion, fried chicken, massage cream. You see what they’re doing, don’t you? You know what’s going on?
They’re trying to get me to watch.
And I won’t do it.
It’s not that I think everything is about me – but in this case, there’s just no other explanation. The sports world is getting awfully desperate for attention, and I’m the last holdout. They’ll do anything to get my time and money.
My God, they’re breeding soccer players with Spice Girls. Have they no shame?
I’m not sure why I fight it so vigilantly. Sports should be a natural for me. The definition of spectator is “one who sits, looks, taunts and purchases salty foodstuffs.” If I may borrow a sports term, this should be a slam dunk.
So much discomfort
But I think it was around ’83, when I found myself getting sincerely ecstatic over a Martina Navratilova foot fault, that I thought, “This isn’t right.” In no time, I’d replaced sports with Bobbsey Twins mysteries.
I still like to play sports, in moderation. But I refuse to watch.
The entire concept of sports seems to be built on discomfort. The seats are uncomfortable, the conversations I overhear make me uncomfortable, the weather is uncomfortable, the wait in line for the bathrooms is uncomfortable, the announcers’ shouting is uncomfortable.
And don’t tell me that running head-on into a defensive end, or getting bodychecked into the boards, is anything but extremely uncomfortable.
There was one glimmer of hope for me, something I could really enjoy: The Lingerie Bowl. It seemed like such a great idea to me. Nimble feats of athleticism, plus shopping! Who couldn’t use a new lace bustier now and then?
Imagine my disappointment when I found that the Lingerie Bowl was more about the exploitation of women than the new season of demi-cup styles.
And the referee calls were horrendous.
These latest bids for sports attention in the news pages are pathetic, really. I am not interested. I will watch nail polish dry, grass grow, and all seven seasons of “Big Brother” and a Mel Gibson miniseries in Pig Latin.
But I don’t care if the White Sox finally win the World Series – I will not watch sports.
Unless they bring back the beanie hats.