I grew up watching sports. I watched sports on TV. I watched sports in person. I watched sports…well, in the early 1980s I guess those were the only two ways we could watch, weren’t they? How in the world did we make it? I guess I made up for the lack of technology by listening to games when I couldn’t watch them.
I also grew up playing sports. I played baseball. I played golf. I played soccer for two seasons until I had enough of the keeper position.
I played basketball from elementary school through my senior year in high school. I loved it. I considered myself a student of the game. We’ll get to what my coaches considered me in a few minutes.
All of those roles mentioned above have a different perspective. Sometimes my perspective was from the outside looking in, but sometimes my perspective was from the inside.
I still watch a lot of sports, but that’s not all I watch. One of the shows that my wife and I used to watch was “The Next Food Network Star.” The judges were always asking the contestants what their cooking point of view was.
I rolled my eyes and wondered how in the world a cook could have a point of view. I rolled my eyes further when the cook would try to explain their point of view. You know, that they would try to express their upbringing, area of the country they were from, etc., through each of their challenges. I would think to myself, “Just cook the food and make it taste good. That’s all anybody’s looking for.”
Over time, though, I think I’ve come to realize what they meant. A lot of people cook food. But it is the personal experiences and thoughts that make each cook different.
Such is the case for much of life, isn’t it?
Just as most things, sports can be great as long as they are kept in perspective.
Long after my illustrious playing career came to an end, I wrote a column in our local small-town daily newspaper entitled “The End of the Bench.” Why that name? Well, for starters, (no pun intended) it’s where I spent the majority of time during my high school basketball career. I mentioned before that I loved the game, but just wasn’t blessed by God with the physical tools to compete at a high level.
My coaches always told me I had a good mind for the game (my naive nature tended to believe them rather than allow myself to think that was their nice way of saying, “You’re terrible”), but I just couldn’t translate it to the court.
Oh, and about what my coaches considered my role on the team? My coach called me a player/coach my senior year. By that time even my naive self knew that was code for “You’re still terrible.”
I wasn’t on the floor very much, but what I did have was a great view of the action from my seat on the bench. From my point of view, I could see everything that was taking place on the court and off of the court. Because I was separated from the action physically, I was able to take a step back mentally and see what might work.
I had a good vantage point, but I really wasn’t the one on the floor. To steal from Teddy Roosevelt, I wasn’t “the man in the arena.”
Much of that is a parallel to today’s sports fan. We’re not in the action, so to speak, but we sure do think we’re close to it. More often than not, we like to convey our opinions to others as if we were in the action and actually had a say about what our favorite team does wrong and how it could be done differently next time.
If we can give ourselves the ability to be passionate about our favorite teams while maintaining that sense of perspective that we should have while we’re outside the lines, we can come closer to giving sports its proper place in our lives.
When you sit back and realize that you are in the stands, in front of the television…or phone, or iPad, or computer (man, these kids don’t know how good they have it, do they?), and not in the arena, the view actually becomes pretty clear.
Previously published here on benchwriter.blogspot.com.
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