September 8, 2013


Not Being There (Joseph Epstein, August 22, 2013, The American)

When the U.S. Open begins, I shall be at my post, not in Arthur Ashe or Louis Armstrong Stadiums in Flushing Meadows but ensconced in my chair, a cup of coffee or tea or a glass of Reisling on the lamp table at my side. I shall probably record on my DVR what look to be the most promising matches, and thus be able to watch them at my convenience. While watching, I plan to take two or three breaks to grab a nectarine from the refrigerator, check my computer for e-mail in the next room, or maybe walk out on an errand, all while the match in question is left on hold. In fact, if the match itself doesn't live up to expectations, I might well fast-forward it toward its final set. Ah, the simple pleasures of not being there.

As it happens, I shall be going to a Chicago Cubs-Washington Nationals game this week. My ticket cost $75; it will cost another $35 to park my car; and a beer, a hot dog, maybe some peanuts will add another $20 - a quick 130 bucks for an afternoon at the old ball park. I'm going because a friend from high-school days suggested it. I'm also going because by this time next year, Wrigley Field will likely have added a Jumbotron, one of those monstrous scoreboards that resemble a Brobdignagian smart phone, though one that never shuts off. Under the tyranny of the Jumbotron, while sitting at once tranquil Wrigley Field, conversations about the game, old friends, the state of the world will have to give way to the race of the M&Ms, Fan Cam, players statistics, advertisements, and rock music.

Pro basketball games, I note, no longer allow any time for repose. Once a time-out is called, out come the dancing girls, miniature blimps, acrobats, jugglers, magicians - everything but human sacrifices. Sports promoters seem to believe that, as on radio, there should be no dead time during a game: something must be happening every second. Silence is prohibited. The eye must have something to engage it at all times.

No bag is more mixed for the couch potato than technology and sports. Technology can make viewing sports events on the scene at ball parks, stadiums, and tennis courts more irritating, as in the instance of the Jumbotron, while making viewing them at home more pleasing. Owing to DVRs, replays, slow-motion cameras, and the rest, watching sports on television makes the couch potato feel in better control of the game experience. I haven't been to more than five or six hockey games in my life, but at none of them have I ever actually seen a goal get scored; I only saw people around me jump to their feet and begin to scream. Only through television replay, usually entailing a slow-motioning of the action, have I seen goals scored. Reliance on replays applies to so many other fast-action moments in sports.

..and you can really on get a sense of the speed and violence of hockey in person, but given that every sporting event has gotten longer by adding inaction instead of action, they're almost unbearable in person.  Add in the cost and there's no reason to get off the couch.
Posted by at September 8, 2013 8:14 AM

blog comments powered by Disqus