European Sports: It's Morning in America
As I get older, I find I prefer European sporting events. I don't prefer Europe, or European sports, or even Europeans, but I think everything should be held in Europe.
That way, the young and the old in this country could actually see the completion of a sporting event.
The mind reels at the thought.
This week provided a particularly sharp contrast to the usual offerings of the televised sports schedule. The Tour de France is rolling through, uh, France, and the British Open is underway in, uh, Britain. No, Scotland. Anyway, both events are very accessible to those of us who spend our rather short evenings in our favorite chairs, bobbing our heads like chickens. You know who you are.
Tiger Woods went off yesterday at 4:09 a.m., but that's roughly when I wake up anyway. Today is even better: Tom Watson goes off at 8:09 a.m. We can watch his entire second round before lunch. Augusta National doles out Masters TV coverage with all the openness of Dick Cheney. The British, on the other hand, was on TNT for 12 straight hours yesterday (though admittedly not all live). What could be better?
Well, maybe the Tour. We can tune into Versus around 8:30 in the morning and watch until the stage ends. Then we can flip to Turnberry, pretend to work for an hour or so, and head home to the La-Z-Boy. (And you wonder why employers ban streaming video on workplace computers.)
The Olympics already has the right idea; many are held in Europe. Let's go ahead and declare, say, Lillehammer (winter) and Athens (summer) as permanent hosts and be done with all the folderol that surrounds bidding for the darn things.
Wimbledon is another excellent example. You get two good, solid weeks of tennis, and on the final weekend you can watch the entire men's and women's finals, plus the doubles championships, and still have time to run errands and clean the house before nodding off in the recliner.
Compare those events to, say, "Monday Night Football." I think they still play all four quarters, but I haven't seen the second half since I was in my 20s.
Or consider March Madness. Isn't the first week the best? Aren't you disappointed when you turn on the TV at noon on the second Thursday and find soap operas? Doesn't your heart break a little, knowing you'll have to wait an entire year for that Week 1 buzz to return?
But the worst offender in lateness is baseball. Take this week's All-Star Game, which began Tuesday night about 8:45 p.m. Granted, it was a quick 2 hours 31 minutes -- would that all baseball games were that length -- but that still left it ending about 11:15 p.m. I'd been asleep about four hours by then. Last year's World Series games averaged 3:21, and started at 8:30, or thereabouts. What child, working adult facing an early morning commute or AARP card carrier can stay up for midnight finishes?
Don't get me wrong; I love baseball. It was my first love and my most lasting (top two, anyway). I would have taken baseball to the junior prom if I could have. But our relationship was able to flourish in the early 1970s because I was able to see postseason games during the daytime. My great-uncles -- Harry, Ross, Bob and Lew -- would sit around Grandma's tiny living room and watch baseball and drink 7-Up. (Which I just realized was probably not just 7-Up. Those were gentler, pre-After School Special times.)
I would rush over after school and lie on the floor in front of the TV, surrounded by Sansabelt slacks and polyester shirts, listening to baseball talk. When the uncles figured out I actually was listening, they cleaned up their language and included me in the discussions. Sometimes I would stop at the drugstore on the way for a quick purchase of baseball cards and we would open a pack during the commercials (they always let me have the gum). And when Uncle Bob returned home to San Francisco after one such visit, he sent me his autographed copy of the greatest baseball book ever written, "The Glory of Their Times." I was officially head over heels.
How do kids today develop a love for baseball, or any other sport, in the age of the late start times? Do they settle for the "SportsCenter" highlights? Do they watch games on the DVR the morning after? I've never been able to do that with live sporting events, but then they have grown up with so much technology that perhaps that seems natural to them. And a 12-year-old's deft handling of the remote could probably cut a baseball game to about 45 minutes. So I guess I need to get a 12-year-old. (The only business idea I've ever come up with: renting 12-year-olds to retirees to set up their computers, DVD players, answering machines, cell phones, etc., etc. Now someone will steal that; it's a gold mine!)
No matter. Borrowing a 12-year-old would probably lead to trouble, and I fear it's too late for me. I am slowly melding into the generation that hasn't seen an NBA champion crowned live since Larry Bird was wearing short shorts. The old sports department hours of "work all night, sleep all day" have gone the way of leather helmets and ABA basketballs. Last year at my high school class reunion, I remarked that the so-called "new media" was turning me into a farmer -- early to bed, early to rise. (In hindsight, perhaps I shouldn't have sounded cranky about it, since some of my former classmates are farmers. I have nothing against farmers. I come from a long line of farmers. I love farmers. I just don't want their work hours, or their tans.)
The only relief I see is moving all sporting events to Europe, or moving everyone to the West Coast. Imagine being able to watch back-to-back-to-back NFL games on a Sunday and still get your requisite sack time.
Perhaps, though, it would be less costly, and more egalitarian, to persuade the major sports leagues to start games at 7 p.m. instead of 8, or 8 instead of 9. Let's do it for the young and the old.
And the farmers.