Several times people have commented on not understanding why people watch sports. In theory I am an excellent person to respond; I greatly enjoy watching basketball, football, hockey, tennis, racquetball, playoff baseball...I also engage in playing basketball, softball, tennis, racquetball, golf, biking, bowling, etc.
It is somewhat of a complex question, however, because even though two people who have known each other their whole lives might be watching the same event, they are not likely seeing the same things.
Example; my friend Kyle was a very good college pitcher. My friend Billy had been a good catcher in high school but never played collegiately. I last played competitive baseball when I was 12.
We were watching the Portland Beavers when they were still here. I saw the pitcher throw the ball, the batter swing and miss and end up striking out. I could see the pitch speed was changing and the ball was at different points of the plate.
Billy commented on the sequence and how the pitches changed the batters perception through "changing levels, ocation and speed"...in other words, by throwing the ball high and moderately paced on one pitch, then fast, low and outside on the next, the pitches were made more effective by the vast variance between the two...even though to me they looked pretty similar.
Kyle then expanded on it, pointing out the break of the curve added to the deception...he could tell when the pitcher was throwing a fastball as opposed to a curve as opposed to a change-up.
All three of us saw the same event but our own experiences changed what we saw. I enjoyed the game for the brief moments of excitement when someone scored, they enjoyed it on a more thorough, intellectual level.
Had it been a basketball game we were watching, we would have been closer to the same level; we could discuss the intricacies of proper pick and roll execution, both offensively and defensively. We could have debated defensive schemes and offensive sets. We could hve marveled at the players who ignore good fundamentals and team play, yet are effective...
Because we all played basketball at decent levels.
Now, my chances of having a pro career in any given sport are somewhere between non-existent and unbelievably laughable. However, I still engage in sports where, believe it or not, I am getting better. Racqetball is probably the best example.
The other night I was able to view the US Open Racquetball Championship. And watching it keys me in to another reason some people watch sports; namely, it can help them improve their game.
On the one hand, watching it was depressing; seeing Rocky Carson blast a back-handed pinch shot from 39 feet away and knowing it would take me a thousand attempts to make that shot successfully lets me know just how far from the pro game I am...and he was blown out in all three games by the vastly superior Kane Waselenchuk.
But watching their court position, how they strategized their shots and using that to adjust my game...I went out the next day and was 10% improved without a single practice swing.
Watching people do what you do, but do it better, helps you learn how to play the game yourself.
Believe it or not, that is a powerful incentive to people like me to watch sports even if we did not simply enjoy the competition.
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