Culbreath: Huge sports fansWritten by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“I’m a big music fan”, the old joke goes. “I love country and western.”
That joke got a very recent redesign: “‘I like everything except rap and country,’ said every boring person ever.”
I am a little shocked when I talk to “huge sports fans” whose full intake consists of football, baseball, and maybe basketball or hockey. Possibly NASCAR. I get the sense that not a whole lot of people were watching the Rugby Sevens tournament that NBC broadcast last week.
I watched it, and I enjoyed it. Why not? And why is there such a resistance to anything different?
I’ll admit it, when I was growing up, I wasn’t the biggest sports guy. I’d collect baseball cards and watch football on Sundays with Dad, but that was about it. In junior high, I had a Philadelphia Eagles Starter jacket, not because I was an Eagles fan, but because Starter jackets were the in thing, and I liked the color green. In high school, I’d watch the Swanton football and basketball teams over the bell of my trumpet, playing fight songs in a valiant, fruitless effort to pump up the crowd. It wasn’t until my college years, when my roommate Nick would leave the morning Sportscenter loop on when he went to morning classes, did I really start to follow sports. Must have seeped in subconsciously. When it was discovered that I had an uncanny ability to read sports news in front of a microphone, I was all in
In my pursuit of athletic knowledge, I came acrossed an awesome book. Simply titled The Sports Book, it’s the one book that can be judged by it’s cover, as it’s cover is made of Astroturf. The contents within, however, were even better: a primer on over 200 different sports. From popular sports like football and basketball, all the way down to sumo, handball, and lawn bowling. If it has a rulebook, it has a page in this book.
Armed with my encyclopedia, I take in everything I can. English Premiership Football, Australian Rules Football, curling… if there’s a way of watching it, I want to watch it. Friends and co-workers will tell you, there were sports that I turned my nose up to in the past. As I got more involved with being a “huge sports fan”, I understood that it meant taking in these other sports. I didn’t have to like them, but I do at least need to respect them.
The Olympics are the best avenue for this pursuit, because every single match in every single sport is being streamed online. Last year, I spent a little too much time watching preliminary rounds of judo or fencing. I might not understand it, but it’s at least interesting. These athletes worked for years to reach this point, the apex of their sport. While all eyes were on basketball, swimming, and gymnastics, there’s incredible drama happening on every level, and it’s there for the watching if people would just, well… watch it.
Unfortunately, that’s not happening, and it’s starting to change the landscape of sports. Last week, it was announced that the International Olympic Committee is removing wrestling from the games, to be replaced by golf and rugby in 2020. A shrewd business move by the IOC, motivated not by the passion of amateur sports, but by eyeballs on televisions. If Tiger Woods playing for his country is great in the Ryder Cup, imagine how great it will be for a gold medal! At least when the NCAA cashes its checks written with the sweat of amateur athletes, it leaves the non-profitable sports alone
But if NBC is showing rugby sevens on national television, and BCSN is airing honest-to-goodness I-kid-you-not collegiate quidditch, then I suppose there’s hope for the outlier sports yet. It’s good to see something different grace your screens, even if it is a curling bonspiel on the CBC. If you’re the “huge sports fan” I mentioned at the start of this article, try branching out. The Daytona 500 is next Sunday. Premiere League soccer airs early enough here in the States that you can watch a whole game and be done by noon. Flip open a sports almanac and pick a sport at random, see if you can find it somewhere. Find the song that gets you out of the “country and western” ditch.
Matt “Shaggy” Culbreath is sports director at 1370 WSPD. Email him at email@example.com.