It’s ironic that the capital letter ‘m’ in the ‘wingdings’ font is an image of a bomb about to explode. I’ll give you a minute now for the inevitable check on Word to see if this is in fact true … … there? Satisfied? Now, the reason I know this is because the ‘My year without sport’ heading at the top of the page I’m drafting this on is in that font, just in case my wife happens to pass by and looks over my shoulder to see what I’m typing. You see, right now, this is a secret from everyone in my life, well … except anyone reading this right now. Guys? Hello?? Anyone?!
The ‘decision’ to take a year off watching sport was or is not one that was pre-planned or determined in any way. It is not a counter to any overt addictive behaviours relating to gambling, over-watching or social limitations due to an obsessive compulsion to turning on the teev.
It’s a response to … to a what? An ‘inkling’? An idea? A calling? I’m not entirely sure, but it’s a greater feeling that there’s … that there’s something more to life than sport. Of course I know this to be true, but too often enough, my behaviours don’t reflect this known reality.
A part of culture
You see, sport is an enormous component of the culture in which I am a part and this aspect is one in which I am intrinsically ingrained. Even in the time that I have written this, a good couple friend of ours have asked me to go to the football next Friday night to help celebrate his birthday. And so the high wire act begins – how do I balance the dichotomy between being more involved with people and the ‘greater plan’ of disengaging from watching sport, without cutting off my nose to spite my face? (I’m off the hook for Friday night, by the way. She went in to labour soon after … someone’s looking out for me!)
You see, I can’t hammer a nail into a board to save my life, I’m not a great cook, I don’t always know which great bands are touring and when, I’m not a gym rat and I couldn’t handle myself in an altercation to save my life, though if it involved my wife or my 4 year old Labrador cross, I’d like my chances better. But when it comes to talking sport, I can hold my own. In that realm, I can connect, be a part of the culture which in which I live. I feel like I have something to offer.
Whatever the activity – AFL, NBA basketball, English Premier League soccer, UEFA Champions League soccer, Australian A-League soccer, NFL American football, even the major league baseball if the Red Sox go deep enough into the playoffs, I am a fan. Add to that a lifelong following, to various extents, of WWE wrestling (enter standard anti-wrestling or wrestling fan remark here – ‘_____’) and now MMA/UFC, that makes an abundance of different tangents on which I can connect with people in a social medium.
But it’s also a lot to keep up with.
And it’s that that I have found exhausting.
So much of my mental headspace every single day is devoted to sport – making enough time in my day to watch it that night, the recap shows, the web sites, the stars, the stats, the controversies…
All this came to a head for me recently. At a friend’s holiday house for a weekend away, I found myself alone, with time to kill. Spending this spare time, yet again, watching football games (that I had no vested interest in) left me feeling underwhelmed and that yet another weekend had been wasted. And it had.
It. Does. Not. End.
One game leads into another, one season into the next, the seasons overlapping, some never taking a break… With the media cycle shorter than ever before – 3 days, if that, little or no time is granted to reflect or bask on what has transpired. The cycle doesn’t allow it.
Mark Sayers, a gifted and prophetic speaker and analyser of all things cultural, posed a challenge recently that spoke to my heart. People want to be more involved ‘in mission’, feel a greater part of their communities, help others, yet they ‘don’t have the time’. What do I need to give up in order to have more time for the important, the transcendent? I felt immediately as if sport and tv were my two elements to consider.
And so, for a year, I’m going to try step away – not watch any games whatsoever and remove myself as much as possible from the corresponding media coverage.
Of course there’ll be lots of issues and technicalities inherent in this (there already have been!)… ‘What do you do when it’s a social event where sport will be shown?’, ‘Why don’t you try limiting how much you watch?’ (tried that, didn’t work…) ‘Are you going to avoid all scores and information completely, thereby disappearing from the face of the planet?!’, ‘Are you simply a freaking idiot?!’ (quite possibly). But they are matters to ponder in future posts.
For now, I will look for chances to engage more with people, be more ‘present’ and try not to think about how this was shocking timing in terms of what I am about to miss out on soon…
In the next installment, ‘U-ni-ted!’ – how I fared without seeing the clinching of the English Premier League title and the epic Champions League Final versus Barcelona and what will I do about my trip to Europe and Old Trafford itself…