Friday, October 9, 2009

Are you experienced?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to go to The Masters with my brother. Neither of us are what you would call golf aficionados. In fact, if not for SportsCenter, I wouldn't be able to tell you any golfer's name other than Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duvall (and only Duvall because I have a friend with the same name.) I can think of a dozen people I know who would have appreciated the opportunity to go see one of the world's premiere golf tournaments, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to go, especially because passes to The Masters are so hard to come by and there's no telling if/when I'd ever get to go again. (I ended up going again the next year, but at the time had no idea I'd have that opportunity.)

After watching golf in person for eight hours or so, I realized a couple things. One, you probably shouldn't be allowed to watch golf in person if you don't know which hole you're watching. And two, golf is boring to watch in person. On television, you can skip from hole to hole and see what's going on all over the course. Unless you're Usain Bolt, you're not going to do that in person. In person, you pick a hole (or two if you get to the right spot to watch) and take everything in from there. Roars go up from the crowd across the course and you're left wondering what happened over there. Of course, were you to have been there, the excitement would have happened where you'd left from.

With the advent and proliferation of high definition television, watching golf from the comfy confines of your home is infinitely better than watching it from the course. Better views of the holes, more access to the course, more comfortable seating, cheaper beer, no port-a-potties and no traffic  make the idea of actually going to the course seem like a terrible idea. The same holds true for most events. Why fight the traffic, spend far too much on parking, pay for overpriced ballpark food, get sunburned/frostbitten (your weather may vary) and then fight the traffic to get home when you could just watch the game naked on your couch (your house rules may vary)?

I mention this because I recently spent 21 hours in a car over three days to go see U2 in concert. There's no rational reason to spend that long in a car for a three-hour concert, even if it is U2. I mean, I've got their music on my iPod and can listen to it whenever I want, so why spend $65 to see them. It's the same reason people put up with all the hassles of going to the Masters or any other sporting event they could just as easily watch on television - you do it for the experience, the "I was there" feeling that you get listening to your favorite band with 71,000 of your newest friends. That's something you can't get listening to music while walking your dog.

Amazingly, even though the Georgia Dome was essentially sold out, the band managed to somehow make it feel like a (somewhat) intimate setting thanks to a stage design that allowed them to face any direction in the dome. The 360 degree video board above the stage also helped create the illusion of closeness, even if you were watching a giant television to get a closer view of the action on stage.

Some highlights of the show for me included:
Being reminded just how good a song "Elevation" is.
"Beautiful Day" which may be the second best song U2 has ever written
"One" which is, undoubtedly, their best song
"Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Pride (In the Name of Love)"

ESPN's Erik Kuselias, during their radio fundraiser to fight cancer, would regularly encourage his listeners to bid on the experiences more than the memorabilia they were auctioning off. For example, he thinks it would be better to spend a day with the Baseball Tonight crew before, during, and after a show than it would to get an autographed baseball from your favorite player. Sure, the ball would be cool and you could display it in your office or home, but Kuselias believes, and I agree, that the memories of an experience are worth more than any ball could be.

Now if I could just experience the Cubs winning the World Series, I could die in peace.

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