Friday, June 14, 2013

Sports talk

I enjoy talking about sports, but I can't add the phrase "as much as the next guy." Chances are the next guy likes sports talk a lot more than I do.

When I speak with my son by phone, we usually spend a few minutes talking about sports. We may discuss the fortunes of the pro teams in Detroit and Pittsburgh, but mostly we talk about soccer. Both of his kids play almost year-round, so we talk about their play and then we move on to the Columbus Crew and, perhaps, the U.S. national team. It isn't long before I've said all I have to say about sports and heard all I want to hear. I'm ready to talk about something else.

Other guys seem to be able to talk about sports endlessly. When I was still working for a newspaper, some of my colleagues would talk about sports from the beginning of their shift to the end. Sometimes these conversations seemed to cover just one topic, such as the question of whether Lebron James would leave the Cleveland Cavs to try to win a championship elsewhere. This conversation lasted for several days. After James bolted for Miami, the conversation continued for a few more. I could never figure out how these guys could talk all the time and still write or edit their stories. I had trouble enough getting my work done while trying to ignore their discussion.

Consider all the sports networks now available on cable television. Most of the games they cover occur in the evening, so the rest of the day is devoted to sports talk. At lunch in a restaurant a week ago, I was placed at a table in front of a screen tuned to ESPN. The sound was muted, but from the text across the screen I could tell they were talking about the Miami Heat loss in the first game of the NBA finals -- not the San Antonio win, but the Miami loss. The question was: Were Heat players too tired after their tough series against the Pacers? This question, or something to that effect, was on the screen when I sat down, and the panel was still talking about it in a rerun when I left about 45 minutes later. How could so much talk be devoted to so little? But then I don't know how a Super Bowl pre-game show can last six hours or so. I turn the TV on about 15 minutes before kickoff, and I hear all the talk I want to hear. I'm certainly glad I didn't have to listen to a long discussion about the Miami Heat being tired.

I have subscribed to Sports Illustrated for years. After I check out the newspaper's front page, I usually turn first to the sports section every day. But although I like sports, I have never wanted sports to consume my life. When I was just beginning my journalism career, the sports editor asked me if I would be willing to cover an occasional high school  football or basketball game on Friday nights. I did it for a couple of years and enjoyed it. I must have done OK because the sports editor asked if I wanted to transfer over to the sports department. I turned him down without having to even think about it. Sports could be fun, but that's not how I wanted to earn my living. A couple of years later when I was a city hall reporter I may have briefly questioned my decision. Any high school football game is more interesting than almost any meeting of a zoning commission.

I would much rather watch a game than talk about it afterward. Can there really be so much to say?

How about them Tigers!

There, that just about covers it. Now let's talk about something important.

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