Why I’m Not Watching Sports For A Year

 

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It has begun.

I’ve officially started my “Not Watching Sports for A Year” experiment.

As you know, experiments have been at the center of Live Fix since the get-go and I’m excited to embark on this new sports-lated one throughout 2014.

I’ve been pondering this experiment for some time and always wanted to do it.

Back in November I mulled it over and decided that on January 1st I’d kick it off.

Honestly, part of me is a bit concerned about doing this.

And it’s that tugging mix of fear, anxiety and uncertainly and all the other emotions that are associated with not watching sports for a year that are fueling my curiosity to go ahead and do the experiment.

The other reason that those emotions are popping up is that, in some ways, watching sports has been therapeutic, a welcomed distraction to hard times in life, a place to take a time-out so I can tune out and give my mind a rest.

Watching sports has also been a valuable mirror that has reflected back to me important life lessons.

Watching sports has served as the backdrop and setting to many unforgettable moments where relationships got deeper and I bonded with buddies.

I can recall countless conversations with my family, friends and co-workers that are sport-related and centered around the Big Game or where live sports was the catalyst to the break the ice and got us to start talking.

And thinking about all those moments I wondered….

If sports didn’t exist, would we even have a reason to hang out and spend time together?

What else would have replaced sports as the shared event to bring us all together?

I even heard my dad say once that he associated the conception and/or birth of me and all of my siblings with a major sporting event.

That said, how important is sports to our lives?

Can we as humans simply enjoy watching sports, value it as a social connector or a healthy timeout from the craziness of life, but not get sucked into the black hole of sports obsessions and addictions?

Why Do I Watch Sports?

Besides live sports, I also enjoy watching sports documentaries, feature films and bio flicks like the Ken Burns Baseball movies, Bull Durham, Rudy, The Natural, and ESPN’s 30 For 30 series.

All of those have given me a good laugh, wisdom, inspiration, historical context and insight into how to playing or watching sports has impacted someone’s life for better or worse.

For example, I’ve watched many baseball, football or basketball games and walked away with some sort of metaphoric gem or lesson that I can use in my own life. And then watching ESPN’s 30 for 30 and learning the backstory makes the game and the lesson I learned even more valuable.

One last thing that I’m sure I’ll miss this year is watching a game through a strategic lens.

For some people, watching baseball, football, or basketball is boring, a real snooze-fest.

Sure, not every game is a nail-bitter or super entertaining. Heck, I’ve even got done watching a game and wondered if I could get the last 3 hours of my life back.

But for me, most of the time, watching a game of baseball is like playing chess. I love seeing how all the “games within a game” play out.

The strategic and behavioral side of watching live sports is probably what keeps me watching, especially when it’s not a Chicago team.

Most times I just want to see how athletes respond in pressure situations. Seeing how players, coaches, announcers and fans respond in the moments after a live win or loss provides a fascinating view into our minds and hearts.

As an added sociological bonus, social media has given us a great opportunity to really learn from these moments like never before, and I’m excited to use social media during my experiment too.

Something Is Creeping In And Taking Over

But what does concern me lately, and what is also motivating me to do this experiment, is that I’ve noticed an unhealthy mindlessness of watching sports start to creep in and take over. I’ve noticed that sometimes it’s like I’m watching sports to avoid doing something else.

And that’s when watching sports is no longer beneficial. And exploring this struggle is another reason why I want remove watching sports to see what it reveals about the “watching sports to avoid the real issue” factor.

What Have Others Been Saying So Far?

Like a lot of the other emotion-based experiments I’ve done before on live music, this is a personal discovery, an adventure to see what I learn and it’s been fun to see the initial response by some of my friends and family on Facebook.

As you see by the image above, there’s already some interesting comments coming in, and I love how all the comments say different things and present different avenues to explore. And I’m looking forward to learning from more responses and thoughts too.

What About Playing Sports?

For those of you who are wondering, yes, I’m still going to play sports because I believe that there’s still tons of value in playing sports to stay active as we’ve learned from my FitBit experiment.

I’m going to pay more attention to how my non-watching sports habits impact my playing and personal fitness habits. And I do expect to more deeply explore the balance between watching sports and playing them.

I Spent 687 Hours Watching Sports in 2013

You can’t do an experiment without crunching some numbers. You need a baseline so you know how to measure progress and get context. I did some quick math and determined that in 2013 I watched approximately 687 hours of Cubs, Hawks and Bears games.

Over six-hundred hours! This doesn’t even include how many hours I’ve spent watching other sports, other teams, or the pre-game, halftime, post game and the countless ESPN highlight shows, or the collective time I’ve spent meaninglessly scrolling through the ESPN SportCenter apps when I already know the scores ( as you can see by the picture above, that app was the first thing to go this year).

I told that 687 hours stat to my wife and she then asked, “Well, Chris, what can you do with all those hours if you’re not watching sports?” Great question. I’m going to find that out in 2014.

I’m looking forward to personally diving into more of what Eric Simmons explores in his book The Secret Lives of Sports Fans which is about why we are addicted to sports and how watching sports impacts our brains.

Of course, I’m not the first person to do something like this. A few guys who’ve done it before like this guy

But I figured I wanted to do it to see what I would learn about myself, others and the big wide world (of sports) around me.

Who knows, maybe I’ll discover that the right amount of watching sports is good for us, or not?

But what is the right amount? Is there a better or more beneficial way to watch sports? Hopefully I’ll discover answers to those questions and many others too.

What I Hope To Learn

To wrap this intro post up, here’s what I hope to walk away with 365 days from now:

  • Will not watching sports make me more productive? Will it allow me to better focus on developing my creativity, writing and things I’ve always wanted to do, or should be doing, instead of getting distracted by watching a game on TV?
  • How will not watching sports impact all the relationships in my life, friends, family and everyone in between?
  • What will it be like to write about not watching sports? Will I discover new things about myself and why I’ve watched over thousands of hours of sports on TV?
  • I’ve been a lifelong fan of Chicago sports, especially the Cubs and so what will it be like not to watch a game for an entire season? Will this ironically be the year they win the World Series? Will I then not get to watch it? Is this experiment a subconscious superstition?  It’s only crazy if it doesn’t work, right?

A Few Simple Ground Rules

Since many of you have asked, I wanted to share a few ground rules that I’ve set for this experiment.

  • No watching ANY sports on TV, internet or mobile devices, this includes football, baseball, hockey, boxing, the Olympics, etc. This also includes if I’m at a party, a restaurant or a bar and there’s a game on, I can’t watch it. I’m especially interested to see how this rule impacts the social areas of my life.
  • Instead of watching the game I’ll write about it or do something else. I will also post a blog entry here on Live Fix at least twice a month, including shorter updates on Twitter, Google Plus, and Instagram. So feel free to follow along.

I appreciate you joining me on this grand adventure and I’d really enjoy hearing if you’ve done something like this or what you think of my experiment. Thanks for sharing and — Go Cubs!

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