Some might call this heresy, but I think watching sports on TV is largely a waste of time. TV viewing, including sports, is a passive activity. When we’re looking at a TV, we’re taking what the world gives us and forgoing any opportunity to shape our lives and experiences. In other words, we’re being consumers, rather than creators.
Before you email to tell me I’m crazy, let me qualify my statement. We all need to veg out and relax sometimes, and watching a game is a great way to take some needed time off. As I tell my kids, a reasonable 3-5 hours per week dedicated to sports is no big deal. I look at this as down time — no more useful to my life than taking a nap, and fine in moderation.
There’s also room for healthy fandom. I love the Chicago Cubs and watching them win their first World Series in more than a century was incredible. I wholly endorse enjoying special experiences like the Cubs playoff run. And, going to see games in person or watching within a social gathering can make sports watching meaningful too. But if you closely follow more than 2 teams or regularly spend more than 10 hours per week watching games, you might be deluding yourself and using sports as an escape.
Over the years, I’ve watched friends become consumed by “sports addiction”- especially with football. They watch the Bears every Sunday, OK. But there’s usually a good afternoon game on afterwards, so they watch that too. Then SportsCenter highlights. Monday night has a marquee matchup, so there’s another 3 hours spent on the sofa. And let’s not forget Saturdays filled with college games. All this time really adds up!
Unfortunately, it gets worse. Sports news, blogs, and talk radio take more hours. Online fantasy games hook many fans to the point that obsession with lineups, stats, and matchups directly impact their performance at work and commitments to friends and family. And frankly, it gets tiresome when people at social gatherings return again and again to sports-based conversations. Jockeying for playoff berths and athlete-inspired media controversies are an infinitely repeating entertainment product.
Between the Big 4 American sports of football, basketball, hockey and baseball, there’s ample opportunity for people to spend entire weekends and most of their evenings sitting on their butts. This is unhealthy enough before you add all the junk food and alcohol that people consume while watching games. Like social media and other modern forms of digital entertainment, TV sports are a kind of drug — addictive, escapist, and bringing a short term rush with longer term health problems.
Think of all the things you could be doing with time currently dedicated to watching sports. If you love the game, you could be outside playing that sport. Exercise, quality time with friends or family, cooking, reading, practicing a hobby, even catching up on sleep. . . all these activities are investments in yourself that will bring you dividends of health and wellbeing. Historic World Series aside, watching sports rarely leaves you with a lasting benefit.
I’m passionate about personal growth and I see media consumption as one of the biggest obstacles. After long days and weeks at work, it’s tempting to just switch off our brains. By all means, rest, but resist the temptation to vegetate. Find something relaxing and also engaging. Life is short, time is precious, and not all fun activities help us grow. To maximize my time on this earth, I’m wary of sneaky addictions like TV sports.
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