The American Sports Fan

Today is Super Bowl Sunday. Arguably, this is the biggest day on the American sports calendar. Really, there isn’t even an argument. Companies will spend millions on advertising. Americans will spend that much and then some on nachos, guacamole, beer, and other assorted “necessities” for game day. Shortly before 6:30 PM (EST) America will grind to a halt as we plop on to the couch, crack open a cold one, and glue ourselves to the “world championship” of American football. After last year, I will never again knock the passion and hope that football in general and the super bowl in particular bring for many. Grown men cry over the winners and losers, especially when their team hasn’t won in a long time.

An emotional fan welcoming the Super Bowl champion Eagles home in 2018.

That’s okay. Passion about sport is awesome whether you are a fan or a participant.

What I don’t get is why not more sports or more variety of sports? Why do Americans adopt their own game, different from the rest of the world, then proclaim themselves “world champions” at something nobody else plays? Basketball and hockey get a free pass. Both games are pursued worldwide these days with popular leagues around the world. Even baseball has participants around the globe with some dozen or more countries featuring professional leagues. But football anywhere else is what we call soccer. Participation and viewership globally dwarf American football but flip on a soccer match in a sports bar and listen to the collective grown. We’d rather watch 4 talking heads on ESPN prattle on about the finer points of the locker room or what each NFL player had for breakfast then actually watch live sports. (Hint: Somewhere in the world there are great sporting events happening every minute of the day.)

It isn’t bad enough that we don’t watch other sports, we also like to belittle them despite their popularity everywhere else. One sport that may have turned me to much more of a winter lover had I discovered it an an early age is biathlon.

Endurance and fine motor skills combined.

This extremely popular nordic sport has great following across most of Western and Eastern Europe yet mention it here and get a variety of derogatory comments. These comments usually range from the redneck perspective of how silly the men look in tights and “why wouldn’t you just ride your quad or snowmobile to hunt?” to liberal hatred of anything that involves guns. Forget the fact  that biathlon has its own professional circuit, world cup competition and championship events that contribute millions to local economies. It is a fast, fun sport to watch that anyone can get into with very little explanation of rules. (Try explaining football or baseball rules to someone from Finland, for example.) Basically the athlete who skis the fastest and shoots most accurately wins. The sport requires both extreme endurance and accuracy with a rifle. Shooting well with your heart rate at 175 bpm is extremely difficult. “Yawn. It’s boring”.

In the summertime, the rest of the world flocks to cycling. Mention cycling in the US and the jokes about the “Tour de Dopers” start. Really? You still think that is a thing limited to cycling?

Screen Shot 2019-01-31 at 5.42.47 AM
Stats for 2018 Doping cases by sport. Remember baseball and American football barely test for anything compared to sports governed by USADA/WADA rules. 

Oh and I know  . . also boring right? No action? Again I ask, really? Do you know how long a football game takes? 60 minutes right? Wrong. According to the NFL’s statistics the average football game takes at least 3 hours 10 minutes and 34 seconds. I say “at least” because that stat is from 2013 and the games have gotten progressively longer since then. In that 3+ hours there is a total of 11 minutes of action. Otherwise fans enjoy 3 hours of watching 22 large men plus coaches and referees standing around on a field. (Don’t even get me started on “official reviews”). “Hey but at least it doesn’t take as long as a baseball game right?” Wrong. The average baseball game is 2 hours 57 minutes with 17 minutes of action. (Also remember that baseball was designed to take all afternoon.) There are more interesting statistics about the excitement of football as a spectator sport here. Perhaps save it for tonight to read during one of the booth reviews determining the idiosyncrasies of whether a runner’s knee was down.

Look, I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t be excited and passionate about football. If you want to paint your body the colors of your favorite team and run down the street naked who am I to judge? Just know that there is a wide world of sports out there with some pretty competitive goings-on if one opens their mind and looks. You might find just as wild and nutty a fan base too.

The mountain phases of any bike race are . . . um . . . interesting.


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