Value is a funny thing.
Sahtyre and I had a conversation the other day about the concept of sports. We came to the conclusion that sports are insane.
That’s not to say they aren’t enjoyable. I was somewhat depressed during this very conversation because the Bears got shat on by the Cardinals earlier that day. I was extra salty because it was one of the few Bears games this season that was shown on broadcast television on the west coast and I was trapped somewhere during the game that didn’t receive the channel.
I ended watching an internet stream of a guy pointing a web cam at his television set...
...and I was perfectly okay with this.
My fandom...as sad as it was that day...is the embodiment of the insanity of sports. I was dejected because a group of men being paid to represent a city I no longer live in didn’t score as many points as a group of men paid to represent an entire state that I live near in a manufactured territory contest. In spite of how nonsensical and ultimately trivial it all is, I'm completely emotionally invested in the outcome of each and every Bears game.
When they win, I get a palpable high. I feel as if everything is right in the world. I have a spring in my step and I swear there's a hint of the smell of cotton candy in the air. Im still fist pumping hours after the game. The fight!...The heroism!
When they lose...I don’t want to hear the word football. The remainder of the sports schedule has ceased to exist for me. There's no such thing as football until they take the field again.
I probably care more about the outcome than the players themselves. It's likely that at the very moment Saht and I were having this exchange, Jay Cutler was on a private jet receiving a Shiatsu massage that would end very, very happily. But as much as I may envy his wealth, I'd be a little hesitant to trade places with him.
These are full-grown adults whose lives revolve around how well they can play a schoolyard game. Many of these athletes have been trained, programmed, and in some cases physically augmented to be the best at playing a game.
I can remember the pressure of being a second (third) string high school cornerback. I could only imagine the stress of a starting QB in the NFL...the expectations...the media scrutiny...the heckling by the fans...the insults from journalists who've never worn a uniform...all for a sport that will cast you aside the moment that someone faster comes along. Like most capitalistic machines, it's tough on those who serve as its moving parts. And it only becomes tougher as it increases in "value".
This ascribed value is what separates the schoolyard game from the international spectacle of professional sports. Things are loose, wild, and free on the schoolyard (no pedo) because the emotional investments are more temporary and the financial investments are close to nil....
...even though it’s the same game.
This is the part that fascinates me. How radically different the experience of certain instances of a game can be over others. The only determinate factor being the amount of attention that we pay to one instance of it versus the other.
This first occurred to me while watching last years NBA finals. On June 4, 2009, the Lakers played the Magic in game 1 of the finals. The Lakers won 100 to 75. Jameer Nelson came back from injury and Kobe dropped 40. If they'd played the exact same game three months earlier, all of the important information about it could have fit within a two-by-two inch box on page 4 of the sports section. Since it was being played in June it has a wikipedia entry associated with it.
The difference is value. And while the simple definition of value would be a measure of the inherent wealth in an entity, capitalistic value, in contrast, is measured by how much money people are willing to spend on an entity. This is derived from the number of people projected to be emotionally, socially, or financially invested in it. Typically our investments are reserved for products and services...a new phone or an oil change. In sports, however, we're invested in the outcome.
And we all decided in the off-season to agree that some outcomes are more important than others.
We agree that the preseason means nothing, the season means something, and the post season means the world.
We've decided that certain instances of the same game are more critical than others, even though a participant can suffer a life-altering injury in any instance. The athlete is still expected to give his or her all, even if the fans, the officials, and the advertisers do not.
This is alchemy. This is magic. This is genius.
The great thing about capitalism is that you only have to have one good idea like this. You can get insanely rich and never have to think of another good thing again.