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December 29, 2012

DODD: The games we play

“If you make every game a life-and-death thing, you’re going to have problems. You’ll be dead a lot.” — Dean Smith

To this day, Kim refuses to sit and watch a college basketball game with me. I was once a sports fanatic. I am now a more casual sports fan.

Well, usually. I can still have my moments.

I used to take University of Louisville basketball games way too seriously. I would get so upset during a big game that I would jump up and down and often utter profanities aimed at the players, the referees, the coaches or just in general at nobody at all. I have been known to punch or throw a couch cushion. Trying to reason with me after a big game loss was simply a wasted, futile attempt at rationality.  

Somewhere along life’s way I got better. It’s now only one or two games a year that can excite me. The last time I remember getting real emotionally charged was during last year’s Elite Eight game between U of L and Florida toward the end. It was only for a couple of late calls in a close game, but there was a moment or two of sport’s fanatic déjà vu’.

I understand the emotionality of big rivalry games because of how crazy I used to get during basketball season. It’s one reason I am so unhappy that the UK-IU game will no longer take place. Such games are for the fans.

I don’t just mean just the fanatics like I used to be, but also for people who normally wouldn’t give a flip about a basketball game. It’s for things like state pride and a reason for parties and gatherings during an otherwise often bland time of the year.

There are few sporting events around which I schedule my time. Games such as UK versus U of L and IU versus UK were ones that would make for a television must view event. I am very unhappy that Coach John Calipari decided not to schedule that game this season. To me, it’s simply arrogance on his part to deprive the fans. Coaches like Calipari seem to think they are bigger than the institution and even bigger than the game itself. Such egos are a part of what has ruined so much of sports for me.

Coaches no matter how successful will come and go but the fans will be there generation after generation. To deprive them of long-standing rivalry games is simply to ignore them. In fact, a lack of consideration for the fans of all sports seems to exist today. It’s like nothing is scheduled with the fans in mind.

The reason that almost nobody watches the World Series anymore is the scheduling. There was once a time when the games were scheduled during the daytime and wherever you were they were on television or the radio. Whether you were at work or school they were accessible and even nonsports fans joined in as it was a national shared experience. Now you have to be up until after midnight on a work night to see the end of one. The same is true for the NCAA championship game.

Then there is the single most watched sporting event of the year. The Super Bowl. It is played on a Sunday at a time when everyone can schedule a party and enjoy it. It’s played for such a big audience every year that millions of usually nonsports fans tune in simply for the roll out of commercial advertising. It’s played and scheduled with the potential audience in mind.

For older fans like me, we miss the time when money was not the absolute bottom line and loyalty was the main theme. I have never liked the showboating and “look at me’ antics that have now filtered all the way down to the high school level. In a sense it has ruined the enjoyment of the game for me. I have to often overlook it beyond my personal enjoyment of the contest.

There is no way it will change. And with the latest slap in the face to local basketball fans the games are getting more commonly played on a pay-per-view basis. I don’t get ESPNU and some other outlets so I have to miss several U of L basketball and football games each year.

I guess that means eventually I will be even less of a fan. If more fans would speak up we could change the greed and disrespect for the fans but it won’t happen. Fanatics will always be led like lemmings off a cliff.

Much as I remember when a basketball game meant a life-or-death thing, sports fanatics will always have sports out of proportion to their real purpose. For every generation of fan like me, more people will overemphasize sports’ value and do what it takes and pay whatever it costs to watch the games — whether the costs are in dollars or personal dignity in a room full of otherwise sane and rational people.

And much like me many, but not all, will eventually laugh at themselves and their antics over a silly basketball game. With all this being written, there are no guarantees for my good behavior if today’s U of L vs. UK game if things don’t go the way I hope.

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at lindon.dodd@hotmail.com

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