I remember the exact day I stopped caring about sports. It was Thursday, July 17, 2010, right after game 7 of that year’s NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers.
I’m a Celtics fan. Or was. Now I’m just a…what? A casual observer? But when I was all-in on my fandom, I was rabid (just ask my wife).
Every game…every player…every stat…I couldn’t get enough. Whenever the Cs were on, I had to watch them. Bill Russell, Larry Bird and the others were the legends, but Paul Pierce was my favorite player. And when the Celtics traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the summer prior to the 2008 season, it was like Christmas had come early.
And whenever playoff time came around, I watched every game even if my team wasn’t in it, because I just loved basketball.
I loved the way that a basketball team operates as a unit, but each player still has the ability to use their talents and creativity to shine.
The basketball-as-jazz analogy has been done to death, but it really fits. The coach could be seen as the conductor, trying to organize the chaos. The center is perhaps the bass player, the foundation supporting the team down low. The power-forward might be the drummer, crashing and bashing and asserting the tempo. The point guard could be the pianist, the conductor-on-the-floor who also gets to step out and shine when appropriate. And the small forward and shooting guard are like horn players, trumpet and sax, the soloists, taking turns as the dynamic scorers.
And like in music, players who can do more than their roles suggest are exciting to watch and add a new dimension to the composition. A center who can shoot threes! A shooting guard with low-post moves! A power forward who’s a great passer!
So the game itself captured my imagination, thanks to my father, at a young age. Why wouldn’t I be hooked on watching the best of the best do what they do?
So back to that hot day in July. I was living with my parents at the time. I had graduated law school May of the previous year, had gotten my law license that November, but had just gotten a job–which paid less than what I could have been making out of undergrad–two weeks before. I was engaged, with the wedding set for that fall, and still hadn’t bought a house yet. That summer, let me tell you, sports were a great escape for my worried mind.
And this was a game 7! More than that, a Celtics-Lakers game 7, the first in my life that I remember between these ancient rivals! I was pumped, pacing in front of the TV, living and dying with every shot, every rebound, every foul as the clock wound down.
It was in L.A., and it’s historically difficult for teams to close out a series on the road, but the Celtics had a sizeable lead in the final quarter. They were without their starting center, injured in game 6, but looked to be on the cusp of another victory over the Lakers, whom they dispatched in six games in the 2008 Finals.
And then the improbable happened. The Celtics started to look winded and began missing everything. Lakers players who had been cold all game began hitting huge shots. The ref did not see–or ignored–Laker center Pau Gasol commit an egregious foul as he grabbed a huge rebound (NBA referees are the worst in sports). And when it was all over, the Celtics went home losers as Kobe Bryant (ugh) was named Finals MVP, despite shooting 6-for-24 in that final game.
I stood in my parents’ living room, shut the TV, and stared at the blank screen feeling strangely empty. “I think I’m going to go work out,” I told my dad, who had been in-and-out to check the score between doing some paperwork in his office. And that was that.
I couldn’t tell you why it changed, but I just couldn’t get worked up about basketball anymore. Or any other sport.
The Patriots lost the Super Bowl in 2011 in nut-crushingly agonizing fashion? Shrug.
The Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011? Cool.
The Celtics almost made it back to the Finals in 2012? Okay.
The Red Sox won the World Series in 2013? I didn’t catch a single game.
I did enjoy watching the Patriots beat the Seahawks in the 2015 Super Bowl. But even that I watched in between doing homework.
The last full sporting event I watched was what turned out to be the final Tom Brady-Peyton Manning duel, the 2015-2016 NFL season’s AFC Championship between the Patriots and the Broncos.
The Pats lost by 1 point. I played with my son after.
Why the sudden shift? The politics in sports?
No…that had always been lurking, but didn’t really explode until this year with the Colin Kaepernick brouhaha.
The fact that, at heart, I was essentially rooting for laundry and that the players–multimillionaires most of them–don’t care as much as I do and would leave my team the second they could make more money?
No…I always knew this and it never bothered me. Sports was about the excitement of competition, sure, but it was still a business.
Maybe it’s that I lost patience with sports the way I did with TV and movies and video games in general, and any other kind of passive activity that really requires just sitting there.
Maybe it’s that, being a father and a husband with a job and life situation that requires much travel, my free time and attention are so limited to the point where any spare moments are filled with other, more pressing things.
Maybe I’ve just got that producer mindset where I’d rather create stories and music and art than consume them.
Or maybe…just maybe, the games just don’t appeal to me anymore.
I can’t say. And I see nothing wrong with sports or sports fandom either. It’s just not for me anymore.
And like with many passing things, I wish I could say that this particular passing was sad, or the end of an era or whatever, but all I can muster is “eh.”
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