21 February 2008

Why we watch

This article originally ran in the Feb. 20th edition of the Scroll.

Why do we watch sports? It's a question posed by millions of disgruntled girlfriends and wives to their armchair-planted significant others. What makes us sit and watch sweaty guys run around a field or court or track for hours on end?

I'll tell you what it is.

It's the Red Sox coming from down 0-3 in the 2004 ALCS and winning seven straight games to earn their first World Series trophy in 86 years. It's Tracy McGrady scoring 13 points in 39 seconds to beat the Spurs in a regular-season game. It's BYU completing miracle play after miracle play to beat Utah in 2006 and 2007.

And it's the Giants, huge underdogs in the Super Bowl, defeating the previously unbeaten Patriots two weeks ago.

The Patriots had an average winning margin of 19 points per game during the regular season. The Giants started the season 0-2. New England relied on the play of star quarterback Tom Brady and new acquisition Randy Moss, who caught a record-breaking 50 touchdown passes in 2007. New York lost their star running back, Tiki Barber, at the end of the 2006 season.

Yet we tuned in to watch the Super Bowl in near-record numbers. There were enough reasons to think the Giants might be able to pull off the upset that we wanted to see if they could. The Patriots and Giants had played in the last week of the regular season, and New York had given New England all they could handle. The Giants' defensive front four were able to put pressure on Brady, and New York's offense moved the ball well enough to score 35 points.

Plus, the Patriots had been discovered cheating in an early regular-season game. This drew the ire of the American people to the point that some described New England's coaches as “demonic.”

These elements created the perfect “Good vs. Evil, Underdog vs. Superpower” mix that we love. The U.S. hockey team beating the U.S.S.R team in the 1980 Winter Olympics is quite possibly the best sporting moment of our country's history. Why? Because we had a team of college kids, while the Soviet Union's team was stocked with professionals. The little guy beat the clear favorite.

So when New York's David Tyree was able to pin the ball against his helmet for a game-clinching first-down catch on a throw from Eli Manning, it meant something. It meant that the unthinkable had happened. David had gotten the better of Goliath.


And that is what draws us to sports. We watch to be there for the moments when the unthinkable happens. We watch so we can tell our kids about the time we saw the Pistons beat the juggernaut Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals. So we can laugh with our friends when we remember watching the eighth-seeded Warriors route the Dallas Mavericks, four games to two, in the 2007 playoffs. So we can smile when thinking about our little brother's game-winning field goal with no time left on the clock.

And that is why we watch.

1 comment:

JoMarch said...

I still don't get it.