Friday, October 28, 2011

TV Wrecks Sports

(After reading Jerry Mander's Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television and Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, I feel that this post was bound to happen.)

I don't understand why, but I'm seriously starting to hate television nowadays.
Why? It clearly skews our vision of sports and local/world events in general.

I'm not going to say that several books have completely changed my life and everything, but I will admit that many things about the media are making so much sense to me these days. You have to hear me out on this one. I'll start asking you a few questions: what is your favorite sport? Have you ever seen it up close and personal? What are your least favorite sports? Have you ever seen those sports up close and personal?

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get some facts and figures out of the way.
Television is always supposed to be exciting, right? Sex and violence sells, right? O.K.! Now, what sports do you think are the biggest sellers on TV because of their violence rate? If you said MMA, boxing, and football, you're absolutely right. What's the lowest sellers? Baseball and soccer. Hockey and basketball is in that gray area because it's not exactly violent as it is fast-paced.

My argument is this: unless you're truly at a sporting event, you will not fully appreciate the energy and feeling of a sport. I keep telling the soccer haters that they don't know what the hype of soccer is about unless if they've actually been there. Just by watching television, people will think that certain things are boring. When something is slow and there aren't enough camera cuts or shots, people will get bored. It's a known fact. What would happen to you if you just watched the television show a basic sunset? You'd get bored--unless if they threw in a couple of cutscenes showing a rolling ocean or birds flying by. With soccer, you will just see a constant pan during play unless if there is a stoppage. It makes sense if you're not a soccer fan. You're entitled to not like it because it doesn't give you a flexible view of things--and let's be honest, you may not be around people to enjoy the experience with.

Let's take a country like Spain or Brazil for example. Soccer is HUGE in those countries. Why? It's not just because it's the most played sport in the country, but there are enough teams and big enough stadiums for those people to fill them and watch every week. Money isn't exactly a factor, either. The amount of people that constantly come every week pretty much pays for itself. It's the same with football here...every week there's more than enough teams for people to constantly fill the stadium and stuff like that.

I understand that not everybody has the money to constantly go to see sporting events, but think before you say something. If you're watching a sport you may not be familiar with, you're heavily restricted in evidence to create an opinion. Television restricts all experience; it only gives generic pleasure and satisfaction, and not the full sight of things. Believe me, I wouldn't be a big of a soccer or baseball fan unless if I didn't play the sports myself and retrieve the full experience that way. Because I have that love for them, I can definitely appreciate the sports regardless of whether I see them live or see them on TV.

Aside from that, television makes you view what they want you to see. If you can't get a legitimate viewpoint, uniformity in beliefs through just seeing sports on television could destroy the unique opinions and welfare of sports itself.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Coach's Tale

(To Mom, the strongest woman in the world.)

After the somber events that have occurred in my life over the span of three months, I have taken a lot of time to think about a lot of memories. A lot of them had to do with my parents, of course. One of the prouder moments they had together was when they helped coach many of the sports teams that me and my younger brother were a part of. They didn't have to go to school for it; they just took what they knew from experience and taught those skills to young girls and boys.

Today, my mother and I saw the film The Mighty Macs in which basketball coach Cathy Rush started from square one and made young women from a small college into champions. After watching that movie, my mother and I reminisced about how she used to coach my softball teams in grade school and how wound up we would all get in it--no lie, I would too...I'd make phone calls if the parents were busy with things and I was a teammate telling the parents what was going on. It was awkward, I'll tell you. We later talked about how we'd want to do it again. It wouldn't be because we loved the stress and the competition (well, for me it wouldn't), it would be because coaching is almost like a sport of our own. We got our own fun and joy out of it, even though I wasn't a legitimate coach at all.

I don't necessarily think this is the same case for all forms of coaching, whether it would be on the professional level or on the recreational level, but to me, coaching requires a lot of "street smarts," if you get where I'm heading to with this one. Don't understand? I'll explain as best as I can.

For example, a couple of days ago Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington compared his matchup to Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa to a chess match. To me, it's more like Battleship because I hardly understand chess, but that's besides the point. Before you do the major planning, you need to know your men (or women in other cases) and make sure that they are conditioned and ready to do their job and make the most of their ability. Sure, it would really help if you played the sport before, so you know what kind of conditioning you would need and what kind of emotions are placed into certain fields of the sport. In other words, you need to know the basic mechanics and how to build up someone who is just learning how to play. When I first started out in CYO softball, there were a few girls who did not know how to hit a ball or even catch one correctly. Regardless of who knew and who didn't, my parents took everyone back to the beginning and taught the basics of how to catch and how to hit. Because they knew how to build those mechanics, some of these girls became so well-nourished in the craft that they even went on to play in high school. To see that happen, you can believe that the coaches get a great amount of satisfaction when there is a success story like that. When you can teach like that, you can get a better feel on placement and how to approach difficulties in cases of games and drills.

I guess you can see why my parents were so wound up in it; once they got a gist of their players, the planning process of placement and strategies provided for each athlete took more time than they would ever care to share with me. The way I see it, the easy part for them was the encouragement and the teaching of particular values that just about any parent would teach to their own children. The teachings of belief, heart, and teamwork would need to be heard at times by players because of the [often] lack of being on the same page or the fog of mental imagery of their own self-strategy. The way a coach acts like a mother duck to keep the team together gives the players another "parent" to look up to. This person taught them specific values on life and love in sports.

Don't lie...doesn't he look like a huggable grandpa to you?

Although it may be true that you may need to have a knack to do stuff like this, you can understand why it's so easy to get wound up in coaching. Most of all, it's pretty awesome to see your master plan all unfold and just watch your team propel to greatness (whatever that may be, since not everyone can go undefeated).

The one thing that my mother and father always wanted before anything else--as much as my mother was competitive and loved to win--they wanted us to have fun. Even professional managers will want their athletes to enjoy themselves in order to remain intrinsically motivated to be at their best and succeed. Isn't that what it's all about after all? Coaches have fun seeing you have fun. How about that? There's so much inner psychology from it that in reality, it all boils down to enjoyment of some sort. Sure, there have probably been some real evil coaches that people may have had in the past...they probably just had a stick up their you-know-where...but even when they were in a good mood, they wanted to see you succeed while carrying out the "master plan."

I won't lie, I'd love to coach some sort of team at some point in life. Teaching comes as a second nature, so how bad could it be to tell a coach's tale to my children someday?


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Momentum Shift - The Keymasters

Yeah, I just totally went there.
It's October, meaning that Halloween is around the corner. Ergo, it's a perfect time to make a Ghostbusters reference! Anyway...

Whenever I watch college football on television, I think to myself, "Man, this place is loud. How is anyone not mute or deaf after this game?"

You think to yourself, why are spectator sports really called spectator sports? Believe me, it isn't just because people like to watch the sport and sit there with their pipes and curly mustaches like we're in the days of Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio. It's because spectators will relentlessly root for their team;  in the meantime, they'll boo and jeer the opponents out of the stadium if they have to. Think Texas/Oklahoma or Army/Navy just to name a few college game examples.

Different factors such as mascots, cheerleaders, and supporter groups like the Black Hole and the Hogettes help the home team's cause and give the home team that extra little boost to perform at their strongest.
If you're in the right kind of sports city, the crowd will let you know that you're doing a terrible job as well. Cities such as New York and Philadelphia (I know this all too well with the Eagles) will even boo at their home team after a crappy job in practically giving away the game to the other team.

It's funny, but I am currently taking a sports psychology course at my school and we were just talking about this concept on Monday night. Note this too--I began writing this post that afternoon before reading the gist of the chapter. Weird, eh? Basically, we discussed that the concepts of home-field advantage have been the center of research over the past several years. Although the facts of home-field advantage date back to well over 100 years ago, there has been evidence present of phenomena such as "choking." Sound familiar? People will argue that since there are higher stakes, there's added pressure that comes along with the loudness of the crowd and the anxiety-filled atmosphere. When you think about it, that makes a boatload of sense, right?

You also have to figure in this tidbit: if a tree falls in the woods, is it going to make a sound if someone is there to listen to it? Teams that hardly have an attendance at their games will have to work from the bottom-up if they need an extra push to get back into the game. You will often see fans from the opposing team file into the stadium to support the team and give them the home-filed atmosphere that they are most familiar with. If the actual home team doesn't have a fanbase of their own to begin with, how are they going to get a momentum shift from an outside force? I won't lie, I do feel a little better when I'm up to bat and someone's cheering for me. That's just my preference though.
I even remember watching a friend playing NCAA Football (I forget which year, to be honest) and while the guys are placed on the line of scrimmage, you have the capability to make a play "raise the roof" and make the crowd louder. That had to have been the weirdest function I've ever seen on a game, but apparently it was really useful to the person playing the game.

There are probably numerous naysayers that will say that the crowd does nothing and that the only way a player will work at their optimum level is if they stay focused and disregard the crowd. I heavily disagree with this statement, and the main reason is because athletes will want to play and they will want to make themselves as well as other people happy. That is our goal in life: happiness. Sure, you could play your heart out and not care what anyone else thinks about you, but when you have [what seems like] the world behind you in doing something, doesn't that give you a spurt of confidence? Doesn't that fine-tune your focus a little bit more? Playing to love the sport is one thing, but playing to entertain is another aspect that usually isn't looked into. When I played softball, I played it because I loved to play. In hindsight, I was also seen as an athletic entertainer; my parents and other family members enjoyed the heck out of watching me play my heart out. Because they loved to see me at my best, they cheered for me. Isn't that what a crowd does for an athlete they love?

There's a lot of lingo out there such as "the sixth man," or "the tenth man," and those extra guys are the people in the bleachers and the stadium seating. Why? They have the heart and soul to inspire the guys playing out on the field. We have that extra manpower to push the other guys to greatness. Sure, we might not always understand everything about the sport, but we know that positive reinforcement never really hurt anybody in the long run...

The crowd holds the key. Momentum can shift at any moment once the crowd takes ahold of it.
They are the keymasters.