Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Are you not entertained?

No matter how hard the ESPYS try to convince me otherwise, I don’t think sports are the same thing as entertainment. And I’ll tell you why.

When I say entertainment, I mean the kind you see in Entertainment Weekly or on Entertainment Tonight. Sports are a form of entertainment, sure, but not like Hollywood or popular music. Sports don’t belong in the A&E section of the newspaper. This seems obvious on the surface, but lately it seems like the leagues and the media that cover them (ESPN, Monday Night Football, etc) have marketed them more and more like they would a movie or television show. The ESPYS are probably the biggest example: a glittery, star-studded award show in the vein of the Golden Globes or the People’s Choice Awards, where the recipients are teams and athletes.

Here’s why this doesn’t work. Your favorite sports team is like your family: you're generally associated with them due to geographical closeness; you say things to them you’d never say to others; they sometimes drive you insane; you often wish you had another one; but ultimately, you just can’t abandon them. Your favorite movie or band or book is like your friends or better halves: you choose them; they were created by a total stranger yet they somehow speak to you as if you’ve known them for years; and sometimes, you grow apart.

For better or worse (most would probably say worse) being friends with me means hearing more than you’d ever want to about my favorites team, the Boston Red Sox, and my favorite band, Rilo Kiley. From the ages of 12 to 16, being my friend meant hearing more than you ever wanted to about Pearl Jam, my favorite band then. I knew more about Eddie Vedder than I did about my own brother (who he was dating, his thoughts on women’s rights, his relationship with Pete Townsend, etc). But then Pearl Jam started taking 4 years between each album. Their noble but doomed fight against Ticketmaster made them hard to see live. When they did release albums, they felt tired. I was getting into different kinds of music, and around my sophomore year of high school, I knew it was time to end my relationship with Pearl Jam. It was amicable, we stayed friends, but I didn’t listen to their albums much. When I saw them live last summer it was like catching up with an old friend or ex and it was great to see them, but I also didn’t regret the separation. It was best for everyone.

This season the Red Sox are doing well (6 points in first, as of right now). Around this time last year though, they were in the midst of an epic collapse that eventually took them from first place to third in the division and out of the playoffs. Through it all, I spent a lot of time swearing, sulking, and scheming of ways to kill Derek Jeter. But at the same time, I always knew that come spring, I’d be all about the Sox again. I’m from Boston, I like baseball, so I root for the Red Sox. That’s how it goes.

I understand that some people follow athletes more than they follow teams. They probably see this issue differently. I don’t understand those people though and frankly I find them suspect, so I won’t address their concerns here. I have a feeling that they might be the people the ESPYS are directed to, and it concerns me that they might be taking over from people who prefer to follow teams.

See, for me, having that constant in your life like a sports team you’ll always cheer for is a nice stabilizer. I’m going through something right now with my current favorite band (the aforementioned Rilo Kiley) wherein they made an album that’s radically different from their previous LPs and not necessarily in a good way. My jury is still out, but it’s definitely too polished and the lyrics aren’t as good as they used to be. There are a few good songs, but overall I’m a bit disappointed. This probably wouldn’t be a big deal for most people, but as you may have gathered from the Pearl Jam paragraph, I’m completely insane. When I declare a band “my favorite,” it’s a commitment. It’s like getting married, and it feels like my second marriage is on the rocks.

Maybe after a few more listens I’ll love the new album. I’ll declare that Rilo Kiley is growing up along with me and we’re still a perfect match. But whether or not the Red Sox stage a massive collapse this year or win the World Series, I know I’ll be back next year. The players come and go, the uniforms change, stadiums are built and torn down, but so long as the team stays in the city or region, that connection is still there.

Sports end each season with a championship and the leagues give out plenty of player awards. There is no need for award shows. Sports are entertaining, but they’re not entertainment. I’m not sure what they are exactly, but whatever it is, it’s a good thing. This should be celebrated, not subverted.

(By the way, Red Sox? Please don’t collapse this year. I really need you right now).


Red said...

Why do those we love the most hurt us so much?

Love the friends and family scored, like, a million on that section of the SATs didn't you?

Liz said...

Haha actually I did do well on analogies I think.