Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sports as entertainment

Today's NY Times features a column by a British sportswriter explaining all the reasons British sports fans don't like American sports (mostly football). This is to mark the occasion of today's NFL game at Wembley Stadium.

As I was reading I was saying to myself either "fair enough" or "typical". "Rugby players do not dress in shoulder pads and helmets"; "Baseball is viewed as glorified rounders played by men in pajamas". That sort of thing. I've said the similar things in my time: "Soccer - 90 minutes because nobody could endure more than that"; "Cricket? They stop for tea. Enough said."

Just your normal give and take, but he makes a few relevant points as well. The best was this one.
Americans see sport as entertainment. But the British do not necessarily want to be entertained at a sporting event. We require long-term emotional involvement, and that often means the perverse pleasure of grumbling about your team’s horrible form.
If he thinks Americans don't grumble about their own team, then he has not spent any time at a sporting event in the northeast. Philadelphia fans are probably the worst in America, but fans from Philadelphia to Boston are well known for booing (or worse) at their favorite teams.

Still, he has a point. It's this aspect of American sports that really annoys me. Those who run the sports leagues believe you must keep tinkering with the game to try and drag in every last barely aware fan. Of course I understand why that is done, but it's always at the expense of the most committed fan, the fan who turns up or tunes in even when the team stinks. And, even though there are elements of this in sports over here, it's much less a factor than it is in America.