Learning To Turn Away

I’ve written an awful lot about spots lately, and I really hate that. It’s not because I don’t enjoy watching sports anymore. I tuned in for quite a bit of college basketball this past Saturday, and I even managed to catch the end of the Ravens/Patriots game this afternoon (Billy Cundiff, my heart bleeds for you, brother.). I play fantasy sports during baseball, football, and basketball seasons, so the competitive drive which one led me to play sports is still in me somewhere. I also listen regularly to sports-talk radio, so I’m obviously still interested in what’s going on.

While I still do all those things, though, my interest seems to be waning the older I get. While I once spent entire weekends parked on my couch watching every televised sporting event I could find, I now treat those same events more like background noise while I focus on something else. I don’t participate in any “keeper” fantasy leagues or any of the ones you have to pay to be a part of. And while I still listen to sports-talk radio, more often than not it only serves to give my blood pressure a good rise as I take issue with nearly opinion that is given.

This backing away from all things sports was never a conscious plan in my mind – until now, that is. I always become extremely frustrated this time of year because of the Super Bowl. Media coverage of the Super Bowl in this country is mind-numbingly ridiculous. ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike In The Morning” program will dedicate the entire two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl to strictly talking about that one game, and that doesn’t even count all the other programs which practically do the same. Then we’re treated to nearly an entire day of pregame coverage before the game itself is played, and then there will be at least one more week of analysis after the game is played. All this, I remind you, for one game.

So last year I decided I had hit my limit. For the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, I didn’t listen to any sports-talk radio at all. And then I didn’t watch a single second of the Super Bowl. I remember leading up to that Sunday thinking I might burst into flames if I didn’t at least check the score or be shunned by society if I couldn’t discuss what happened the next day. Funny thing is, though, none of those things happened. Even funnier, I felt really, really good Monday morning.

I don’t think the way I felt had much to do with missing the game itself. I believe it had more to do with finally being able to push aside something I didn’t really want or need. Of course, I didn’t realize this at the time, but I was also putting this theory into practice in other areas of my life. For instance, I used to listen to several conservative talk radio programs, including Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity’s programs. I would notice, however, immediately after listening to one of these programs I would feel very angry inside. I finally realized this was because programs like these are designed to stir up those types of feelings. They feed off of the fear and anxiety they can create in their listeners. So I stopped listening to them … and I suddenly didn’t feel as angry anymore.

I finally pieced all this together a couple of weekends ago as I watched an old Rick James video on the CoolTV (For those who don’t know, CoolTV is, basically, what MTV used to be – a television station which plays music videos 24 hours a day. And, for those who may be too young to remember it, MTV did actually used to do that.). It was some live concert footage of the late Mr. James performing “Super Freak.” As I watched the video, I wasn’t struck by the vulgarity of the song or even the somewhat dated sound of it. No, the first words that went through my head were these: “What a colossal waste.”

First of all, there was the waste of talent. Rick James was one messed up dude, but the man did have some musical talent, as did the members of the band performing with him in this video. There was also the waste of money, from the costs of producing the stage show to whatever the people in the audience had to actually pay to come inside and listen to lyrics such as “I really love to taste her every time we meet.” And, of course, finally, there was the time element, as you would have to think there was something – anything – more significant everyone involved with this could have been doing.

In a way, this could summarize a lot of what my life has been about up to this point – wasting time. I could tell you all about the entire history of Van Halen, but I couldn’t tell you who the 15th president of the United States was (It was James Buchanan, by the way.). I could tell you that George Lucas used a desk he made out of an old door to write most of the script to “Star Wars” on, but I couldn’t tell you how to change the oil in a car. I could tell you which actor was originally supposed to play Aragorn in the first “Lord of the Rings” movie (Stuart Townsend), but I couldn’t point you to my favorite verse in the Bible without a concordance.

I’m 37 now, and I think it’s time to stop wasting time. Keeping up with sports is not an evil thing, but when it replaces time I could spend learning more about how the laws of my country work it becomes a hindrance. Watching a mindless action movie is a nice diversion, but if it keeps me from watching a smaller-budget film with more to say I’d say my time would be better served going with the second option. Playing the occasional video game will not doom me to poverty, but if it keeps me from learning a valuable life skill or bettering my occupational standing it needs to take a back seat for a while.

Turning away from the things we’ve programmed ourselves to enjoy is an incredibly difficult task, but when you arrive at a certain point down the line and realize you have very little to show for the journey it becomes a necessity. Super Bowl Freeze-Out Year 2 will begin at my house starting tomorrow. No analysis necessary.

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