Disclaimer: This is part two of a series. The author’s opinions do not necessarily reflect that of this website.
From youth leagues to the major leagues, sports are a massive industry in the United States. Over the years certain sports have gained in popularity while others have declined. One needs to look no further than the NFL for a prime example of how a popular sport can become a political lighting rod with issues like kneeling during the national anthem being in the forefront. In spite of their decline, purists of these sports still claim theirs is “America’s game” or “the best out there.”
As an athletic male that played a variety of sports such as baseball, hockey, soccer, basketball, and others while growing up, I can’t deny that playing sports was always enjoyable regardless of the playing field and uniform. Where I separate my enjoyment for sports is when I have to choose whether to give sport organizations my money and time as a fan. The older I get, the more valuable my time is. If I’m going to part with either money or time, it had better be for something that is going to provide me with an enjoyable experience from which I can get a good return.
In a world where politics and the business of advertising often overshadows the actual game being played, here is why I find myself being more selective about what I watch and pay for — and why I think your favorite sport sucks, even though I still follow it as a fan.
Popular view: High-scoring and non-stop action!
Reality: Let’s be real. The game is irrelevant until the last 2-minutes are on the clock.
With a game that reaches scores above 150 points, you’d think it would hold my interest; but in reality it is a waste of time until the clock is about to run out. Particularly in the NBA where it is more surprising when the athletes miss a shot instead of making it, it is hard for me to care about teams trading shots until about the 2-minute mark. Considering that the last two minutes are played in millisecond stretches it actually extends to about 30 minutes, which is all the time I care to devote to it anyway.
Can I also mention that for all the grief soccer players get for soft-fouls, basketball is the only sport I know where a foul occurs when there is literally any bodily contact with the person shooting? Let’s hear it for stoppage of play and commercial breaks.
Popular view: No one cares about the sport outside of Canada.
Reality: First, it is cool that they can fight. And unlike other sports in which grazing the arm of an opposing player is considered a foul, in this sport you can check them into the boards at your leisure.
The rules of the sport to the uneducated viewer may seem confusing simply due to the speed at which the athletes are flying around the ice. But the truth is that hockey incorporates the best aspects of other sports.
Hockey has the physicality of football (and then some); the skill and speed of basketball; the continuity of soccer; and, when a goal is scored, the explosive crack of a baseball home run in terms of excitement. Yes, some games are low scoring, but generally speaking the scores are comparable to, if not better than, football, soccer, or even baseball.
And even if it is a low scoring game did I already mention that the players can shove, punch, and destroy the opposing team? For those who hate on the “violence” in hockey, be sure to watch a documentary called “Ice Guardians” before rushing to judgement on the place that fighting has in the sport.
The real problem? Finding any friends who want to hang out and watch a game on TV because they don’t care.
MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)
Popular view: Too much violence for me. I’d rather watch boxing instead.
Reality: Let’s right off the bat address the violence aspect of MMA compared to boxing. MMA fighters do in fact wear smaller 4-ounce gloves. In boxing an athlete is forced to wear larger gloves that protect the hands, which in turn allows the puncher to inflict maximum force against their opponent without injuring their own hands as easily. What does this essentially translate into? Harder punches being thrown!
What makes boxing even more dangerous compared to MMA? In boxing, after an opponent has just been knocked down and concussed the referee will give them every opportunity to stand back up and then send them right back in front of the person who just knocked them out. This will repeat until the braindead opponent is unconscious in many cases. Now let’s switch back to MMA where the job of the referee is to protect the fighters from taking unnecessary damage by stopping the fight when a fighter can no longer (or should no longer) continue. Submissions can result in broken limbs or an unconscious fighter, but generally fighters are smart enough to tap out before it gets to that point.
So, what is actually wrong with MMA?
Many fighters forget that when they are on TV or in front of us in the arena they are entertainers not martial artists. Too many fighters feel it is up to the promoter to force people to want to tune in and watch them, or to get sponsors to pay them. They say things at a press conference like “I’m not here to talk, I’m here to fight.” No, you actually are there to talk and get me to be interested in watching you fight.
If people cared about watching good fighters “just fight”, they’d show up for the prelims. Ever been to a UFC fight and seen how empty the arena is until the main card starts? I have — and it is a ghost town. The fighter is the one who must use their limited time in front of a microphone or camera to get people to care about their next fight. Otherwise they’ll be back to fighting in a regional circuit — where their only fans are their family and friends — and wondering what went wrong.
Ultimately every sport has its pros and cons. What I have done as a fan is deduce that I only have so much free time in a day or week, and I’m not going to frustrate myself with sports that are wasting my time with a bad product just because they’re on TV. Fortunately with ESPN+ and other streaming services, I can afford to be more selective these days. Because some sports really suck.
* All photos via Pixabay