Friday, October 25, 2013

The absurdity of the pregame show

I grew up watching sports on television. From getting to stay up late on an October Saturday night to watch the World Series when I was six or seven to spending Fall weekends watching football to lazy summer afternoons watching the Cubs, it’s pretty much how I can mark time in my life.

All that sports viewing also means I’ve spent hours and hours watching pregame shows. “Experts” who would analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each team and then try to predict what they thought the key matchups would be. Then they’d make a pick for who they thought would win. Sometimes they’d be right. Often they’d be wrong. But ultimately it didn’t matter because it was sports on tv and it’s what I was interested in.

I really hadn’t given much thought to pregame shows until a few weeks ago when I had on an NFL pregame show while doing some things around the house. At one point there were highlights on the screen and my son said “Is football on?” I told him it was about to be, but this was a pregame show.

“Pregame show?” he asked, slightly confused.

“Yeah, it’s a show that talks about what they think is going to happen in the game,” I told him.

“So they’re just talking?” he asked.

“Well… yeah, they’re just talking about the game,” I said.

And that’s just it. That’s all they’re doing is talking about the game, and yet they are huge. CBS and FOX dedicate an hour each week to previewing the games. ESPN takes it a step farther with their three-hour NFL Countdown show.

And people watch. They watch people just talk about games that haven’t happened yet. They watch people who are no better at picking games than anyone else. Yet we believe these experts have insights that can tell us how the game will unfold.

I can’t back this up with any stats from anywhere, but I get the feeling that someone who is going to sit down and watch a 3-hour pregame show probably has spent a little time during the week reading, watching or listening to other NFL news and notes. I’m not even a huge NFL fan and yet I spend between four and five hours a week listening to a daily podcast about the sport (well, it’s more about fantasy football, but it’s NFL related.)

I’d never stopped to think about pregame shows until the conversation with my kid. It was always just something that was a part of being a sports fan. But that was in a time when we didn’t have 24/7 access to information and entire television networks devoted to covering one sport. Maybe there was a time when you needed a primer for the game, some of the key players and who is or isn’t hurt. That time has long since passed. I have access to more detail and more team (or game) specific information in a minute of searing online. I don’t need to wait for a pregame show to hopefully spend 10 minutes on the game I want to see.

And as my son astutely points out, they’re just talking. Thinking about all the time I’ve wasted on these shows makes me sad. But now I turn on games when they start. The football game starts at 1 p.m., I’ll turn on the tv at 1 p.m. The World Series game starts at 8:07 p.m., I’ll turn it on at 8:07. I’ve been freed from the shackles of the pregame show.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Honest Acknowledgements

One of these days I'm going to get around to writing a book (and start exercising and eating healthy and reading more and..... sorry, where was I?) Oh, right, the book. I always read the acknowledgements at the end and they're always the same. Thanks to my dedicated editor without whom I couldn't have done this. Thanks to for the support of my friends, blah blah blah. Just once, I'd like to see a writer say "screw this, I wrote this and no one's getting credit but me." This is how I imagine that acknowledgments section going.
First of all, to my editor. You are a lousy good-for-nothing know-it-all who wouldn't know good writing if it slapped you across the face. The suggestions you made to my manuscript were not only worthless, they actively made the writing worse. The fact I caught more typos than you makes me wonder not if you were drunk during your so-called editing, but exactly how drunk you were. I would call you a fool, but I paid you actual, honest-to-God money for your "services," so I guess that would make me the fool.
To my friends Tim, Josh, Dave, Damon, Shannon, Melissa, Becky and Lauren, I couldn't have done this with you. And by this, I mean missing deadlines because you did nothing but badger me to go out and spend time with you rather than working on my dream project. Your selfish, myopic lifestyle is mentally and emotionally draining. You make Seinfeld and his friends look like they live a life of charity and giving. The fact that anyone, including me, is able to suffer through your presence for any sustained length of time is a testament to the both the strength of the human spirit and to the delusions we'll tell ourselves simply to not be alone.
To my brother and sister-in-law, Adam and Erin, would it have killed you just once to watch my kid for a few hours so I could conduct an interview in peace? I wasn't asking for a 4-day weekend complete with a sleepover with 12 of his closest friends and refridgerator full of Mtn. Dew. Just a couple hours on a Wednesday night so I could talk to this guy I’ve spent the better part of six months tracking down and arranging an interview. But no, your precious weeknight SunBelt football game just couldn't be missed. Thanks for that.

To mom and dad, you did well. We’re cool.

To my loving wife, WTF? For years you encouraged me to follow my dream and write a book. Then, just as I finally decide to do it, you start criticizing me for not helping around the house as much. Yes, I let the dishes pile up a little more than usual, and yes, I may have asked you to help with the nighttime routine for our son more often, but you knew that was part of what it would entail once I decided to write this book. You can’t then turn around and nag me for not folding the laundry right away because I was working on a chapter. It’s not really fair to ask me to follow my dream and then complain when I do.

Finally, to my son, Andrew. Thanks for not spilling juice on the computer. You’re four, that’s probably all I could have asked from you.

*Thanks to Jon Walsh (@j85royals on twitter, which is where we 'met') for the idea for this post.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Code of the Playground

There was only one thing to do. My kid had to throw something at him. He didn’t want to, and I didn’t relish the fact that it needed to be done, but the fact was, it needed to be done. We couldn’t let him disrespect the facility like that.

It may be called a “playground” but the understood purpose of the equipment is for children to exercise and to develop their motor skills. That they may derive any sort of childlike joy from running between the apparatus is merely coincidental. The purpose is not to have fun. The purpose is for the body to develop.

So when I saw that kid …. Nay… that punk continually going down the slide again and again with a smile on his face and laughter loud enough to distract the other children from their “play,” I knew someone had to take a stand. Clearly he didn’t understand the business of the playground.

He seemed oblivious to the kid crying by the swings. He didn’t care about that. All he cared about was the unrestrained jubilation he felt as the wind hit his face on the way down the slide. There’s an unwritten rule on this playground that you check on other kids who are crying. Ignore that rule and the entire social fabric of the playground could be destroyed. Soon kids would be running or sliding or jumping with total disregard for playground etiquette. If no one enforced these unwritten rules, anarchy would ensue.

So I told my son that he needed to throw a rock at this unrepentant child. He needed to learn the rules, to learn the code. A playground is nothing without a code. Sure, throwing a rock at this punk might cause injury, but the playgrounds rapscallions have always been dealt with this way. The code is the code.

In unrelated news, did you see Yasiel Puig “celebrate the front and back end of a triple,” as Yahoo’s Tim Brown put it.