Sports and the American Experience

Loser-boyDuring last year’s World Series, I watched some of the San Francisco Giant-Detroit Tigers game with my dad. The Giants were smashing the Tigers, and in the process acing the Tigers out of the world championship.

At one point the camera panned in close-up over some of the stone-faced home team Tigers’ fans sitting behind the plate. Ouch! Each one of them looked as if he or she had been told that the HIV test came back positive.

My prevailing thought as I watched this spectacle was, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

This looked like torture. Voluntary torture. Expensive torture. Why would people voluntarily sign up for this?


Sometimes I like to look at things we take for granted, like professional sports, and re-think them. Get back to fundamentals. One fundamental of sports is that there will always be losers. Always.

So if you get involved as a sports fan, all the time and money you invest in supporting your teams of choice will nevertheless result in you feeling disappointed a lot. It’s inevitable. Your team will suck much of the time.

It’s a weird world. My Dad’s neighbor three doors down (whom we have never met, incidentally) is Alex Smith, the former San Francisco 49er quarterback traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. I saw on the Internet where his new 3-year contract is worth around $24 million commencing at $7.5 million this year. According to the public record, he bought his house for $3.2 million. Can you think of many occupations where you can buy a dream house for a half-year’s salary?

I certainly don’t begrudge anyone for financial success, but I do question our social priorities. We glorify with money and fame people who will disappoint us a lot.

I have come to look at sports as big business and entertainment. Much like any other form of entertainment, if the show is not good, I don’t buy tickets.


This year the World Champion San Francisco Giants have been playing very poorly. My dad is an ardent fan. He watches every game, usually to the bitter end. Last night he watched the last-place Los Angeles Dodgers complete a three-game sweep of the next-to-last Giants.



So here I am in this semi-snarky, sports-is-biz mind set feeling oh, so snooty superior watching “worthwhile” American Experience shows online. These are great PBS shows about American history, right?

While my dad was watching the Dodgers cream the Giants one more time, I was watching a long documentary about 19th Century Chicago. I saw more than my week’s quota of corruption and man’s inhumanity to man, not to mention cruelty to animals.

This was definitely not feel-good material. I have seen enough American Experience shows to consider renaming it American Assholes. Really. So many episodes reveal bunches of shameful, disgusting acts throughout history. The show usually does not make me feel proud to be an American.


I had to chuckle at myself. I probably finished off the night in worse mental shape than my dad. I was disillusioned to be an American, and he saw his team peter out one more time.

But that’s entertainment.

Yet from now on I will give my dad a break.

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