He was an American guy, fresh out of university, doing some mix of public relations and something like espionage for the Chinese government in Shanghai. Interesting guy - I'd been shooting pool by myself and he asked if I'd be up for a game. Sure.
So we chatted - he was in Shanghai to go through the Expo and talk to everyone foreign about their experiences. Being a young, white, American guy with a light East Coast accent, he blended in and was basically invisible. He was able to get an impression of what journalists really thought and people at the Expo really thought. He was getting paid decently for this and having a really fun time.
He added that he wasn't just there to make sure the publicity for the Expo was good: When he reported in that a number of people felt that workmanship setting up their display areas was shoddy and the local contractors had cheated them, Shanghai officials reached out to them, made it right, and took the contractors to task.
He seemed like a solid guy, athletic, hard working, smart, well read - kind of guy that's going to do a lot in life. I used to live in Boston, so I asked him if he followed the Red Sox or Celtics.
I still remember his answer. "No, I don't like spectator sports. Playing sports, sure. Spectator sports, no."
That comment stuck with me, bothered me a little bit, the way that only something true can bother a person.
Over the last three months, I've been tracking my time a lot, and following the Red Sox, Celtics, and the off-seasons in the NFL and NBA was sucking up some time. There was some learning involved, there's a lot to learn from sports. I taught myself statistics from reading detailed baseball analysis. I like reading analysis of the business side of sports, whether a contract is a good contract or bad based on the player's stats, injury history, ability to produce, risk, and how much the team stands to gain for winning in the short run by adding the player. I like the leadership, coaching, and motivation aspect of sports. I like learning about spacing and motion and teamwork. There's good things in it.
But man, it's a time sink. I've spent... I don't know how many hours reading analysis and discussion on Sons of Sam Horn and checking stats at various sites. This had been gnawing at me the last three months or so.
There was a huge amount of drama surrounding the best player in basketball, Lebron James, and what team he was going to go to. The day of the announcement, I figured I'd check after it was over, but I mis-timed and wound up searching about an hour or two before. Man, I lost the entire two hours reading rumors, speculation, drama, and gossip.
This is no way to live.
I still like sports, even spectator sports. I'll catch a game if I'm somewhere I want to see play - I'll go see the Celtics, or Red Sox, or FC Barcelona, or Chuniji Dragons if I'm in a city they're playing. Maybe I'll catch a playoff game at a bar. Or maybe I won't! I don't know to what extent I'll follow sports, but it's going to be at least 98% less than I do now. So, go Celtics, go Sox, and all that - but I'm not following any more. Playing sports, yes. Spectator sports, not so much.
I am finding less and less time for spectator sports in my life too. Recently, I found myself watching the "condensed" versions of both the Yankees playoff games and Jets regular season games. I would rather go to the gym and spend 2 hours playing basketball (my least favorite of the big three). Perhaps it is a sign of the times?
Have you ever watched professional wrestling? In the US, at least, it seems to lead the industry, and I think its success led to other sports increasing drama and content to consume. I grew up loving sports because it was a shared live participatory experience, not a tabloid of rumors.
That said, do you feel you can stay away from sports while living in the US? The latest news serves the purpose of establishing rapport, and in some cities there is not larger shared passion.