I’m not sure how it started, but I started receiving ESPN magazine in the mail about a year ago – something about airline miles expiring. The latest issue, of ESPN magazine, is titled The Music Issue. Katy Perry and J.J. Watt adorn the cover which landed in my mailbox in the off-week right before the Super Bowl. Flipping through the pages of this sports magazine reminds me of attending a game of any one of the 4 major team sports in the last 15 years. And that’s not a compliment. As I already wrote about here, the Super Bowl isn’t for football fans, it’s for the in-crowd – and in a smaller way, so is attending a regular season game of the MLB, NBA, NHL and the NFL. The magazine is chock full of how music and sports interconnect, the sports empire that Jay-Z is building, and the relationships between sports players and musicians. Interesting stuff for sure, but it’s just noise to me.
In the ESPN Music Issue, Gene Simmons of KISS (who is co-owner with fellow band mate Paul Stanley of the Arena Football League LA KISS), proudly says “You got to try to break the grounds and not do what Grandpa used to do… It shouldn’t be just football, it should be an event!” Oh dear God. Granted an argument could be made that Arena Football isn’t football anyway, so… big deal.
Unfortunately though, that is the same mentality that brought a simple 20 second long introduction of an NBA team before the game starts to a nine times as long drawn out spectacle complete with a blackout arena, indoor pyrotechnics, video montage, a volume 11 soundtrack and a competition for which PA announcer’s lungs can hold out the longest when shouting a player’s name. All that hoopla, and the actual game hadn’t even started yet. Sure, getting the fans pumped up and primed to root for the home team is good for morale – as the Seattle Seahawks and their 12th surely believe – but if a loyal, loud and energetic fan base is really that important to winning, than the Utah Jazz would own some championship hardware other than the big fat zero that rests in their world championship win column.
Trust me, I’m not 78 years old, so forgive me for sounding like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, but when I go to regular season Dodger games here in Los Angeles, I am bombarded with constant stimuli that has nothing to do with why I came to the ballpark. Believe it or not, some people don’t think baseball is boring. Some of us actually enjoy watching the game or mulling over stats in between innings. Talking possible trades or injuries with the pal next to you, or just reading the sports page you brought along with you. Baseball is billed as America’s pastime. Kick back, relax, have a beer and hot dog and watch the game. Not these days. Every chance they get to grab your attention and keep you from just simply being there, they are on it. Now you can say I don’t have to pay attention, I can just do what I normally would do, but you try and ignore 40,000 people screaming they know which cup the peanut is under on the jumbo-tron or the cheesy montage video parade of paid LA celebrities expressing their love for team blue. Or God help the baseball fan in the stadium if a pop star is in attendance. With music videos, movie trailers and contests, it’s a wonder why anyone doesn’t just build stadium seating at a local park and erect their own giant screen, (trust me, it’s coming). Please believe me, this isn’t about hating pop culture or having fun. I enjoy the peanut butter in my chocolate type combo of singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch. This is about too much cross pollination. Hot fudge and salmon, I love them both. But when you smother my salmon with hot fudge, it just tastes terrible.
This is why I ask, is fantasy sports the last place on earth where a sports fan, the one that just wants to focus on the sport, can live. I’ve been playing in a NFL fantasy league for ten years and it’s now become the only place for a fan where stats, injuries and trades matter. Where I can digest football endlessly with my friends. I’m starting to understand and empathize with the D&D and World of Warcraft crowd. People too often decry slippery slope scenarios but as much as I love Nancy Bea and her organ, it’s apparent that even the 7th inning stretch tradition of singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was the beginning of the end.