10 Things I Learned By Not Watching Sports For A Year

Standard

 

cubs-batman

Okay, so I did it. I completed my experiment and went 365 days without watching any live sports on TV or in-person.

Honestly part of me is sad that this experiment is over because I learned so much during the experience. And I didn’t think it would take me this long to reflect and gather all my thoughts, but I guess this just goes to show how much impact live sports has on my life. Writing this post has made me I realize that I’ve only just begun to understand the level of impact that this experiment and watching live sports has had and will continue to have, on my life.

It was an extremely fun and revealing experiment that I always wanted to do. And I’m glad that I picked 2014 to do it and not 2015. If I did this experiment this year I think I would have possibly lost my mind not being able to watch the Cubs. I will say not watching sports in 2014 made the Cubs season and playoff run even more sweet to watch.

Like all good experiments, I started this experiment inspired by my curiosity, a few assumptions and lots of questions. And like most experiments I found truth but uncovered many more questions. So here are a few things I learned as I reflect back on the experience. This isn’t by any means the end of my reflection but it’s the first steps forward as I start to unpack the meaning and significance of this crazy adventure. This post is also an exercise in Working Out Loud so I hope you enjoy it from a WOL perspective too.

1. I love watching sports to connect, feel emotions and build relationships.

As you can see by that picture above, I’ve always been a sports fan, especially a Cubs fan. And this experiment has helped me begin to understand all the emotions surging through the heart and mind of that 12 year old kid. This experiment has helped me understand why I do get so pumped and excited, and how that crazy love for live sports has grown and influenced me throughout the years.

I’m not the kind of sports fan who watches every game of every team. But I’m a guy who enjoys watching and playing all types of sports for many reasons. And honestly, I didn’t realize how much I actually did enjoy watching live sports until I took it away for an entire year. I definitely noticed the void in my my life and felt the impact on the relationships around me. And for that reason, this experiment was a struggle and revelation and a bit frightening on my levels.

I had the chance to reflect on why I get caught up in the game of live sports. Why I do yell, scream and even cry during games? Though I’m an introvert in many ways, I love being around people, especially at sports games. I do watch sports on TV alone often but I have many fond moments of being submerged in the glory and roar of the crowd at Cubs and Bears game. I also realized that I love being a part of the long text messages that erupt during games as my family shares their excitement as the game unfolds.

Because I’m wired up that way to love being with people, this experiment did put a strain on my relationships. During 2014 not watching sports presented me with moments where I had to physically remove myself from a family event or talk with people while they watched and I didn’t. My brothers, to my surprise, actually supported my experiment by not watching a Blackhawks game during a family party because they didn’t want me to stumble or break “my vow” as they called it.

And because I wasn’t “allowed” to watch sports for an entire year I had the chance to have some great conversations that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. I struggle to reflect on this aspect of my experiment because I was confronted with the hard truth that I often don’t fully engage with people when sports are playing around me. Why is that? I’m not completely sure.

This bothered me. And as a result a whole bunch of questions came bubbling up.

Why do I look past people to catch a quick glimpse of the big game flickering on the TV when I’m suppose to be paying attention to the person in front of me?

Why do find it more enjoyable at times to watch a game then engage in conversation? What does this say about me as a person and us as sports fans?

Why do I watch sports to escape from human and social interaction? Am I missing out on deeper relationships because of my desire to escape from the moment in to live sports?

Do I have a live sports addiction?

These questions scared me but I had to dive in and face them to figure things out.

Part of why I did this experiment was to answer those questions and figure out how not watching live sports would impact the relationships with men and others in my life. In short, sometimes not watching sports did and other times it did not.

I learned that I have friends and relationships where live sports doesn’t impact how we interact or what we talk about. Sports didn’t even come up once in those conversations and we can talk about other things.

But when interacting with guys at work, or with guys I just met, it’s basically impossible to avoid talking about sports. So what did I do in these situations?

Well, I either had to tell them I didn’t watch the game and tell them why, which led to many interesting conversations about my no live sports experiment. Or I faked it.

My sub-experiment: faking it

Yes, I faked it. I created a sub-experiment during which I faked like I did watch a live game. This led to some interesting moments where I relied on my past sports knowledge and love for fiction, improvisation, imagination and making things up to have a little fun. So sometimes I made up fake highlights and plays that never happened and inserted them into conversations to see what would happen.

This was interesting because several times no one challenged me or questioned my fake highlight. In most cases they simply said “Yeah, that was an awesome play!” Other times, I did get some strange looks but they didn’t challenge me or ask me about the reason for sharing a fake highlight. As bizarre as all of this was, those moments made me really think about how we interact as humans in work and surface and small-talk type situations.

What I missed out on in 2014

My experiment was also tough because I had to opt out of several group sport watching events. At work I avoided an event where our VP of communications invited us all to watch the US hockey team take on Canada. I didn’t go to the event and instead, as hard as it was, I resisted the social pressure and internal urge to watch the game with my fellow co-workers.

Again, I paid close attention to how I felt. I felt disconnected, anxious and nervous. Why? I wondered if this one event would have any impact socially at work? These type of events tend to be good times to take a break and get to know co-workers and I was not there. Would my act have a negative impact on team chemistry? Would I miss out on jokes and moments that others would share? Maybe. Did it impact my career path because I didn’t have a social or networking-type interaction. Maybe. But it’s hard to tell at this point.

I also opted out of watching the 2014 Super Bowl and instead watched the shows on the History channel. Since the Super Bowl Half time show isn’t technically live sports, and I’ve always loved unpacking the meaning of live music during the Super Bowl, I watched Bruno Mars put on a great show.

2014 was a tough year because I turned down several offers to go to live games. And when my brother-in-law gave all the groomsmen Sox tickets to a 2014 game at the end of season I was nervous to deny the opportunity. But I was relieved when the game was cancelled and we had to reschedule for next year. (Whew, that was a close one!)

Though she loves to play many sports, I learned that my wife only really loves to watch the Bears and Sox, and she doesn’t care about other sports as much. So when those two teams were on I had to come up with creative ways not to watch, like sitting facing the opposite way of the TV or going to a different part of the house to play with the kids. Again, hard to do and it showed how much I love using live sports to connect and share those moments with those I love.

There was something about those moments with my wife that drove my curiosity and I wanted to understand more about what live sports does to family relationships? What is it about sharing live sports moments with family that makes it different than strangers? Why do we use live sports to mark important family moments? Why does the big game give family a reason to get together?

2. Watching live sports can become an addiction, but am I addicted?

According to wikipedia, addiction is a state characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences. In other words an addiction is something we keep or can’t stop doing even though it can cause us or other around us harm.  I thought about that, and other definitions of addictions, throughout my experiment as continued to wonder…am I addicted to live sports?

I learned that watching live sports can be a slippery slope, a dangerous neurological and behavioral experience for me. I feel that each time I watch a game I dance with the temptation of over watching and getting to emotionally attached to what’s happening or becoming a slack-jawed-zoned-out sports zombie that can’t stop watching. ‘Why do I do this? Why do I get like this?’ I wondered.

Here’s what I’ve discovered, so far…

Yes, I know we can become mindless slaves and hopelessly addicted to many things in life but I learned that with sports, it’s especially dangerous for me because I can be fooled into thinking that I’m dealing with emotions that I’m not really dealing with. Or I can use sports to avoid things I must do, feel, face and accomplish.

Though it’s okay to zone out once in awhile, I found that I often go beyond the healthy limit of using live sports to just zone out. I found that I often use live sports to avoid things I must do. I discovered that I use live sports to avoid feeling emotions I must feel. I found that live sports is like a strange nostalgic drug.

But what was beautiful about this insight and asking these questions was that I found that when I watch live sports to avoid, I often get ambushed by emotions I didn’t expect feel or emotions and memory I was trying to avoid.

This emotional ambush might come up when a memory is jogged by a well-designed commercial or a play that triggers a happy or sad moment with my dad buried deep in my mind and soul. In those moments, I fought to feel the emotion but then found myself stuffing it back down. Why was I fighting feeling this emotion? Why was something as simple as a live game bringing these emotions back up? Why not just let the emotion have it’s way with me? Wouldn’t that make the live game experience better? It wasn’t that easy.

So, as I basked in the glory of the Cubs 2015 season and their inspiring playoff run, I couldn’t help but wonder ‘what’s making me so crazy?’ Why was I struggling with feeling the emotions? I could embrace the good feelings of hanging out with family and friends but when Go Cubs Go strarted playing I got all watery eyed and fought to truly feel the emotion? What was it? Sadness? Fear? Joy?

I wanted to feel the moment and all the joy that comes with watching Kyle Schwarber launch a home run bomb over the right field wall in Wrigley. In retrospect I thought about how I missed my dad when watching Cubs games. I often though of him during 2015 as I watched sports again and I looked at my son and wondered if him and I will have the same connection with the Cubs and baseball.

Yes, I thought a lot about my dad during the experiment (more than I expected) because that’s where a lot of the emotional significance of my live sport moments come from. I knew that going into the experiment but it became much more real to me And because I wasn’t actually watching sports I had the time to reflect on the relational significance that sports had the relationship with my dad.

And now that I’m back watching live sports with my own son those fatherly memories I’m creating with him are all the more special. I’m more aware of how special those moments were for me and I found myself cherishing them more as they unfolded with my son during 2015. And because of this experiment those moments with my son, like his first Cubs game at Wrigley in 2013, all the more real and palpable.

first_cubs_game

Because of this experiment I’ve found myself no longer able to stuff the emotions down but I’m getting more comfortable actually feeling my emotions during a game. I’m not perfect at it but I’m getting better at letting the joy or sadness or whatever ever emotion have it’s way. As uncomfortable as it might be for me when it happens, I’ve found a deeper sense of joy and pleasure in embracing the moment for what it is and letting the emotions come up and have their way with me when I find myself getting unexpectedly emotionally ambushed during a game.

And the beautiful thing is that I’ve even experienced a moment where my son, even at three years old, looked over at me during a Cubs playoff game and asked if I was okay because my eyes were wet and cloudy. So I told him why and he just looked at me as I tried to explain it in a way he could understand. I’m not sure I did a good job explaining things but maybe he’ll read this post when he gets older and things will make more sense.

So I think this is why live sports has such a strong hold on me. Watching sports has a strong family connection and deep emotional history. There’s a lot going on emotionally under the surface in my heart and mind during a game. On one hand, subconsciously, I’m using live sports to relive nostalgic moments and good memories. Then, on the other hand, I’ve been conditioned by media and culture to love the flashy and fantastic highlight-reel moments that live sports give us during a game. It’s a complex back-and-forth inner battle that I’m much more aware of and this new found awareness has added a new level of enjoyment when I watch live sports.

But this still brought up an important question.

Where is the line?

Where is the line between just enjoying the moment and finding simple pleasure in watching a game and it being an addiction? Where is the line between having a good time watching a game and over indulging and living in the past? Is this what causes sports fans to take a simple love for sports and have it turned dark and morph into a live sports addiction? And how do we know if it’s a live sports addiction? Do we use the amount of time wasted and emotions avoided and relationship damaged to measure our addiction? Do we use those signs as a signal to let us know when things are getting dangerous?

Through this experiment I’ve come to realize that my brain has a hard time finding and then not going over the line. I’ve realized that’s partly why I get sucked into watching highlight shows when I’ve already watched the game. Too often my brain doesn’t know the difference between the live version and the memory bank version. Because of this, I think my brain, on a basic and primal level, loves what it feels like to watch a present moment because it thinks it’s reliving a past moment.

Of course it doesn’t help that basically half of watching a live game on TV is watching the instant replay over and over again, which reinforces and feeds the hunger my brain craves. It’s a nasty neurological and behavioral cycle that’s tough to break.

So this powerful neurological cycle keeps going round and round.  I watch a game and I find pleasure in those live moments as my brain and memory associates the present with all those wonderful moments and memories I have with my dad and growing up.

I also realized another truth. At a basic level, we as sports fans who are human beings, just love to watch something spectacular happen because it simply put; it’s an escape. Live sports take us away from the mundane moments and by watching live sports we seek out that rush of pleasure. And that’s what we can get addicted to.

This process is so complex that it’s taken me nearly a year to sort it out and begin to make sense of it. And I’m not even sure I explained clearly enough to you here. But I’m glad I took a year to not watch sport to begin to figure it out. And I’m sure this is only the beginning of what I’ll learned and more will be revealed to me in the coming years.

Like all good experiment should do, the more my experiment went on the more I realized how little I know about myself and why I love watching sports.

Sharing (part of) my secret life with you

But what I do know is that like with most things in life, it’s about balance and moderation. So that’s what I’m striving for and trying to be more aware of. I found that I do love that rewarding rush of stimuli that live sports gives me. But was I indulging in live sports regardless of adverse consequences? Was there a deeper physiological battle waging inside of me?

secret_lives_of_sports_fans

Yes, there was. Through this experiment I became more aware of and fascinated by the physiological, sociological and psychological impact of watching live sports and I loved reading The Secret Lives Of Sports Fans to guide and explain some of my curiosities. In this book I learned more about the reactions we feel during live sports. I learned that what we feel by watching our favorite teams by ourselves or with friends is actually hard-wired in humans to help us feel good. That feeling, though often an elusive mystery, is designed to keep us in the moment individually and designed to connect and bond us with other people on a deeper sociological level.

As I read that book I learned, and became more aware of, the danger of over-escaping and getting addicted to that feeling of excitement and rush of adrenaline. That powerful chemical reaction that happens after a watching a walk-off home run or triumphant touchdown can be so seductive and trick me into thinking that by watching sports I’m some how dealing with my life and facing my fears and connecting with others when I’m really not.

This sociological, neurological, physiological and psychological aspect of my experiment was by far the most complex and I’m still sorting it all out. I’ll likely write more about this as things become clearer and more is revealed to me.

But what I do know now is that by not watching sports for a year I had the time and opportunity to stop and reflect on what is actually going on in my body and mind during a live game. For a year, I wasn’t just a mindless sports zombie lost in the constant loop of the highlight reel. For 365 days I was able to scape the seduction of the highlight reel just long enough to understand the meaning of why I love to watch live sports. Now the challenge is to build on this knowledge and figure out how to put it good use.

3. I love learning from the strategy of live sports.

I’ve always enjoyed learning about the story beyond the game itself and I love learning from the strategic elements of live games and apply what I learn to my life. I believe this is one major reason why I missed watching sports in 2014.

In addition to connecting with others, I initially thought that I just escaped into a game to avoid life but this wasn’t the case. I love the “game within the game” of sports. Many say that baseball is too slow of a game, but not me. I love the mini games of chess going on within baseball, and I missed that a lot.

And as I watched Joe Maddon lead the Cubs in 2015 I was excited to watch the post-game interviews because he isn’t like other managers. He’s like a wise sage and always says something that teaches and puts a new, fresh and uniquely personal perspective on baseball and life.

Not watching for a full year and then watching the Cubs and other live sports this year, I realized that a subconscious part of my brain is watching for those strategic moments that I can apply to other areas of my life. Those moments when a coach or a player has to make split decisions or show leadership in a critical turning point in a game.

I love it when these strategic and teachable moments come along in live sports because I’m not just shutting my brain off and going on auto-pilot but instead there’s an exciting opportunity to engage and extract more meaning. There’s a beautiful micro-moment where I get challenged to think in a new way or a simple play becomes a major turning point in a game and a players career and even a fan’s life.

4. Why live sports annoys me and the missed opportunity to take fans deeper

Okay, now for my take on the part about live sports that bothers me. By not watching sports for a year I realized how much I don’t like the cliche tendencies of highlight shows and play-by-play announcers. Yes, there are good announcers that know how to put fresh spins on live sports and tell a great story and deftly present the broader context and significance to the live game.

But far too many in the sports world fall victim to cliche story lines and predictable post-game questions and analysis. And because of this rote tendency, the opportunity to take fans emotionally deeper is missed too often. If I’m feeling all this mental, emotional and physiological stuff as a fan, and I know players feel it too, then why don’t we find a way to unpack that during a game? Why not explore the “deeper why” of why we love live sports more during the actual game?

Knowing that most of sports is mental I find it ironic that most live announcers and sport analysts don’t focus more on the mental and psychological side of the game. Instead they focus too much on numbers and stats and continue spewing out a stream of meaningless statical data that lacks any emotional significance.

So I wonder why we don’t see more exploration of integration of the mental and emotional analysis in live sports? Like what I’ve seen, experienced and found to be true in live music by exploring the emotions we feel before, during and after a live concert, I believe we need to do the same things in live sports and shake things up a bit and make watching live sports more interesting and emotionally meaningful.

5. I like watching food shows instead of live sports. 

Yes, I’ll admit it. I learned that sometimes I don’t even care what game is on and I only care that whatever game is on in front of me is giving me the opportunity to tune out so I can recharge and rest my brain and tune out of life for a few hours. But then again, I found myself getting hooked on other shows to fill my sports void. 

So to confess, I got hooked on Food Network and Travel Channel shows. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing to watch those shows. I just thought that it was interesting to note that I gravitated to those shows when I couldn’t watch sports.

6. I realized (even more) that I love the story behind the game.

I knew going into this experiment that I love backstories of live sports often more than the game itself. But completely removing live sports from the equation gave me the opportunity to better understand what it is I love about the bigger picture and broader contextual backdrop of the games and teams I love to watch and the players who play the games. The live sports industry needs to find a way to blend more stories and how players and fans feel into the game itself and not just mix it in after the fact.

Watching ESPN’s 30 for 30 series made me realize that there’s such a void in understanding what a game really means to us in the broader context of our lives, and that it’s only in hindsight that we truly understand the level of social and emotional impact a live game has on us as individuals and our society. Taking a full year off of sports made appreciate this truth even more.

So I wondered, is there anyway we can be more aware of this as live sports is unfolding?  I know we have sports journalism to do this, but too often even that fails to unpack and go to the emotional level that we need to in order to fully understand how a live sporting event is or isn’t changing our lives. Again, like my annoyance of live sports I shared earlier, I think there’s a great opportunity to tell emotional stories better during live games.

7. Productivity, creativity and mindfulness increased (sort of)

I knew that I spent roughly over 658 hours watching sports in 2013 and I thought that I would have the opportunity to use all those hours to achieve much more and see an increase in productivity. This didn’t exactly play out the way I expected it to. Yes, I did use many of those hours to do other things than watch sports such as like write more, workout, read more and watch TedTalks. So was I more productive? Part of me wants to say yes. But part of says no and I feel like I could have done more. I guess that’s just the guilt talking.

This experiment was certainly no waste of my time just because I wasn’t a productive as I wanted to be. I do feel like my mind evolved and I have a new level of self-awareness and mindfulness that I didn’t have before. It wasn’t easy but for each game I didn’t watch I tried to take time to write and reflect on why I wanted to watch the game and during that process I had the chance to reflect on all the emotional connections I have to live sports. So I guess I was more emotionally productive.

8. Social media made things more intense, difficult and revealing

Social media made it basically impossible to not have some kind of live sports touch my eye balls for a brief moment. Scores, big plays and emotional reactions to games flooded my social feeds constantly. I thank my Twitter and Facebook friends for keeping me fully updated with a constant stream of sports information that I didn’t want but nonetheless found its way into my life in 2014.

Because of this I’ve become more aware of how much my family and friends watch sports and how these meta-live sports social experiences impact our lives. Honestly, at times I got annoyed and considered hiding posts or de-friending people just to avoid it all. But I didn’t and like this entire experiment, social media made things messy and complex.

Social media made the experiment more emotionally intense. I was surprised at how annoyed I got at others posting game updates of games I couldn’t watch. But again, this annoyance and irritation showed me something. It revealed another layer of important questions to the experiment.

It forced me to wonder…

Why was I having such a strong emotional reaction to social media updates? Was it because of the experiment itself or because of my frustration with our culture’s over-indulgence and obsession with live sports? Was social media just making my own emotional struggles more visible and unavoidable? Were those updates mirrors reflecting back to me my own frustration with my live sports obsessions?

I struggled with the truth that I love to connect with people during live sports but I get annoyed on a level when all I see in social feeds in live sports updates.  What’s up with this? Boy, did this experiment make me think long and hard about why I feel this way. What exactly is at the heart of this emotional reaction?

As my social feeds remind me everyday, live sports isn’t going away anytime soon and honestly, I wouldn’t want it to because of the power that it has to bring us together to strengthen and bond relationships. But we should never think that just because we watch a game together that live sports moment is a direct replacement for other types of meaningful interaction. I sometimes fall into that trap and this experiment showed me I have so much more to understand, explore and work on in this area of my life.

9. I had enough past sports knowledge to fake like I did watch sports.

I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bag thing but throughout my experiment I had several “fake sports” conversations and it presented an interesting social sub-experiment. I faked like I was watching sports to see if my past sports knowledge could allow me to not miss out on having important small talk that might lead to deeper relationship with people I know at work and other areas of my life.

I’m a fan of using improv and stream of consciousness to engage my creative side and I love a good interpersonal social experiment on the fly. I wanted to test out my skills of making things up as I go based what I already about live sports starts water cooler conversations. In some cases I made up plays that didn’t exist and nobody seemed to notice and they agreed my “fake play” was a great moment in the game. I thought that said a lot about how we interact as humans and the role small talk plays in bridging gaps and breaking the ice. In some situations will go to great lengths, even lie, to maintain status quo and not rock the relational boat. After this happened a few times, I wondered how my times someone has humored or lied to me about what they’ve watched just to make me feel good or not disrupt the flow of conversation and avoid a awkward social moment.

Other times I “faked it” for a short time and then told them I was doing an experiment or other times I simply said, no “I didn’t watch the game” and told them why. In each of those situations, it led to a really cool conversation about why we watch live sports and I got to know that person in a different way. Next time, I’ll just tell the truth up front and have more really cool conversations.

 10. Watching live sports is and is not, a lot like watching a live concert.

This was one of the things I was very curious about. Being a live music fan I was aiming to discover what live music and live sports had in common. For starters, our emotions play a big role in both situations. Each have a similar ebb and flow, up and down nature as a game can swing in our teams favor sending us up into a crescendo of elation and then crashing down to valley of despair and disappointment should things slip away.

Likewise, a band’s set list can woo us into a state of utter bliss taking us down memory lane with one powerful combination of melody and rhythm or a live show can dash our expectations if the band doesn’t play our favorite song or is out of sync and the vibe isn’t quite right.

One difference I noticed is that I’m more consciously aware of my how I feel emotionally during a concert than during a live sports game but one thing I learned was that as a sports fan I would be missing out if I disregarded how much a live sports game really moves me.

What surprised me was that I noticed that live sports has actually made me feel more sad and depressed; I’m thinking of what it felt like to watch the Cubs lose this year in the NLCS and what it feels like to watch the Bears implode on a Sunday afternoon. Maybe it’s because I want the joyful bond and glorious nostalgic feeling of watching a game with my family and dad to live on and when the game ends I’m tossed into a saddening funk. And this emotional funk is even worse if my team loses. That’s why I don’t think how the low we feel once a game is over is only just about the final score. We’re sad partly because that live sports moment is over and we want it to live on. We want to continue to escape together (or alone) but reality is back. And we must face it.

Thinking back to my worst concert experience I can’t say I ever felt the same as I did after watching a bad game. I just feel different emotion. Not quite sure why? But I just know that I feel different. Do I feel more connected with my fellow concert fans during a show then I do at a live game? Is the communal goal and emotional rewards different during a live game versus a live show? Like everything else in this experiment I’ve ended up with more questions than answers.

What I do know is that with both live sports and live music the opportunity to feel emotions is always there. I’ve been ambushed by emotions in both situations but for different reasons and it different ways and I can still choose to feel the emotions or turn away and stuff them back down. I can tell you that my best live sports moments and live concert moments have come when I don’t stuff but I feel every last bit of emotion during and after the experience.

Would I ever do this again?

So would I ever not watch sports for a year again? I don’t think I’d ever go a full year again, but I might go for shorter periods of time if I need to unplug and reflect. For now, I’ve learned what I needed to learn and I’m aware of the behaviors I need to change and what I need to reflect more on. I also might post updates as new ideas and insights bubble up so stay tuned.

Without a doubt, this experiment was tons of fun and extremely valuable and I can tell friend and my grandkids someday that I did it. Would I ever pick something to not do for a year again? Perhaps. It’s been such a great learning experience that I’ve begun to think about what else I could do and what other areas of my life I could experiment with. Would I recommend you do it? Absolutely!  If you can stick it out and keep an open mind, I’m sure you won’t regret the adventure. Good luck and game on.

Spread the love...

My three words for 2015: Simple. Focus. Give.

Standard

It was extremely valuable to have three words to guide me last year so I’m going to do it again. My three words for 2015 are: Simple, Focus and Give.

Simple

For me this means that I’m aiming to add more simplicity to my life. As hard as that might be, that’s the goal I’m working towards. It’s not a destination. It’s a journey. Whether it’s relationships, finances, career or just the day-to-day flow of life I know that striving to live simple mentally, physically and spiritually is certainly something I want to strive for. This means that I’m aiming to make better decisions that add simplicity not complexity to my life, and I want to work at not dwelling on frivolous details when I don’t need to. I’m aiming to learn more from my past mistakes and trying to keep more of the big picture in mind and not get caught up in the little things that don’t matter in the long run. I’m aiming to measure my progress on this by removing clutter from my life and getting rid of things I no longer need whether it be possessions, projects, relationships, toxic habits or old ways of thinking that are holding me back. I hope to learn a lot through the process of trying to be simple in all areas of my life.

Focus

Whenever I’ve accomplished something meaningful in my life it was because I was focused on it. Really focused on it. I had tunnel vision (in a good way) and nothing else mattered besides what I was focused on. I picked “focus” because at times I’ve noticed myself getting distracted last year and I needed to re-focus in a few key areas of my life in this new year. The word also worked nicely with “simple” because it’s hard to stay focused if you’re not keeping things simple. I was inspired to select focus as one of my three words after reading (and rereading) the book Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud. In the excellent business book about learning how to know when to end things so you can move on and up in life, Cloud talks about how a rose bush needs to be pruned or it will die because a rose bush produces more life than it can sustain. That “rose bush” truth has really impacted and challenged me. I’ve shared that bit of wisdom with many people after I read the book because it drove home an important lesson. It helped me to understand why it’s critical to have the mental and emotional strength to remove unnecessary things from my life so I can truly focus on what matters. Because of this I know it’s important that I develop the skill of learning how to end things so I can thrive and grow into the person I was created to be. Since Cloud is a clinical psychologist, the book’s wisdom also helped me to better understand all the emotional reasons that might keep me from ending things that are slowing killing or holding me back. The skill of identifying what needs to end, and actually following through with it, is a skill I’m always working on and that’s why I picked “focus” as one of my words for 2015.

Give

I want to give more in 2015 than I did in 2014. I had a great time running 26.2 for a worthy cause and I want to do more of the same. I want to give more of my time, money and resources to others because I’ve been the blessed beneficiary of others who have given to me. I learned a lot about the value and importance of giving by reading the book Give and Take by Adam Grant. Appropriately, the book was given to me as a gift and it’s packed full excellent research, case studies and stories on how giving gives us more energy and inspiration to create, makes us better leaders and creates broader learning and career opportunities, and I want to put what I learned about giving into action. Like my other words, “Give” is related to focus because I want to focus my time and energy on giving back to causes and relationships that are important to me and others and hopefully the world will be a better place as a result.

Looking at my three words for 2015, I didn’t necessarily plan this, but I do like how they’re are related, interwoven and interdependent. I’m excited to have them this year because, like last year, having “three words” enables and empowers me with a strong sense of purpose, freedom and clarity. It keeps me honest. And I invite you to ask me how I’m doing. And I’d love to hear if you have three words too. As the year rolls on, I’ll share with you updates on what I’m learning as I continue to work at living these out.

Spread the love...

Reflecting On 26.2

Standard

chicago_marathon_chris_catania

Have you ever wanted to do something you’ve never done before and really make it matter? And make it matter not just for you but for others too?

Well, I did. I ran the Chicago Marathon for these three reasons. It was an amazing adventure that changed my life. It was so sweet on so many levels. It challenged and transformed me. So here’s what I remember as I reflect back on the experience.

Running 26.2 miles was complex. It was a revelatory blur of emotional, mental and spiritual transformation. The experience altered my heart, mind and soul forever, but at the same time so many parts of the experience remain a mysterious enigma. I’m still figuring out why it changed me and what actually did change within me.

And that’s why I’m writing this post: to see what exactly I do remember in hindsight with the hope that through the writing process I might make sense of the mysterious parts and discover new truths. I also hope to inspire you to share and reflect on your own running adventures and embark on similar journeys.

So here’s my story.

Getting revved up

It was 45 degrees and sunny as a steady wind blew in off Lake Michigan. It was a near perfect morning for a race through the city. I remember standing in the start corral on Columbus Drive in downtown Chicago surrounded by thousands of my fellow runners. Here we all were about to do this crazy ceremonial and communal act of running 26.2 miles.

My heart and mind revved up. I was filled with all sorts of emotions. Feelings of joy and excitement bubbled up as I thought back to all the work and time that led up to this moment. I found myself thinking back to all those long runs along the Fox River and my three reasons why I was about to run 26.2 more miles to complete The Mission and head into uncharted territory.

My eyes began to well up as I look up at the gorgeous Chicago skyline reflecting the morning sunshine and felt a swelling surge of energy coming from the crowds all around me.

I was pumped and bursting with pride and excitement because I was about to embark on an adventure that I had never gone on before. And even better, I was going to run alongside my brother Joe and run this race for a great cause: to support my aunt in her struggle with Multiple Myeloma cancer.

Shedding the old and ceremonial acts

I did what a lot of other runners do before the race. I peeled off a layer of clothing and left behind my warm-up jacket in the start corral. But for me this moment was more than just losing some extra clothing. I had heard about this practice of tossing your warm up clothes from other runners and I wanted it to be a special moment for me. I wanted it to mean something.

Leaving behind my jacket was an intentional spiritual act. I had run many training runs in that jacket and for me it was a shedding of the old and heading out on a new journey of self-discovery.

So I unzipped my jacket, slipped out my arms, rolled it into a ball, closed my eyes and gave it a ceremonial kiss and held it up to the sky like a warrior offering a sacrifice hoping for a blessing from the heavens before heading into battle. Then as the corral started to slowly lurch forward like a herd of cattle I tossed the jacket on the ground.

I then took the obligatory pre-race selfie with my brother, did a couple short jumps up into the air like a boxer loosening up before a fight, let out a few rebel yells and got ready to run.

chicago_marathon_selfie_

Even though I ran more than 400 miles during training nothing could truly prepare me for the burst of adrenaline that flowed through me as we crossed the start line and began the race. It was hard to fight the urge to go out hard and fast. But I resisted the temptation and stuck to my plan: run my own race and just enjoy the moment.

It was such a wonderful way to experience the city of Chicago. For the first few miles running through the downtown loop among the tall towering and magnificent buildings and cruising through the neighborhoods made me proud to call Chicago my hometown. It was nothing short of awesome to feel the love from the swarming throngs of cheering people. I had a huge smile on my face as I ran by and read all the creative, funny and inspirational signs of encouragement. And I didn’t know a cowbell could be so inspiring! I couldn’t help but run along the sidelines and slap a few hive-fives and smack signs that said “Hit the button for running super powers!”

Mile 2: The Blind Runner made me see

Speaking of inspiring it was amazing to run past the blind runner and his guide at Mile 2. I loved how every runner yelled and cheered as we passed him. As I went by him I wondered…

What does it feel like to see nothing the entire race but only experience the smells and the sounds of the marathon?

What does it feel like to run blind and only trust a guide to lead you for 26 miles through the city?

Would I have done such a thing if I was blind?

How different would running be for me if I ran less with my eyes and more with my heart?

It was a beautiful metaphor to ponder for the next two miles as my legs got loose and my body warmed up.

Mile 3: What if life were like this?

At Mile 3 I turned to my brother and said ‘Wow, how cool would it be if life were more like this and people were cheering you on all the time as we traveled through our days?”

He then looked at me and said, “You do have that. It’s called family.”

Hmmm? I thought. Interesting response, because, yes we do have family, but honestly, life isn’t always like THIS. And life can be very lonely sometimes. We need to have more people cheering us on like THIS in life, I thought. We need more cowbells, slapping high-fives and “hit the power button” signs.

With that idea rolling around in mind I ran along I thought more about how I need to be more intentional in how I encourage other people. I felt a strong and unexpected conviction rise up in me. I realized that I need to work at encouraging people not at the biggest life moments and but also in those not-so-big-and-in-between life moments. I know I loved seeing all those signs and smiling faces as I ran along and once the race was over I knew I needed to return the favor back to people in my life.

So that was my second aha moment as I ran my first marathon. Thank you, Mr. Blind Runner. Thank you, thousands of cheering people on the sidelines. Only 4 miles in and two great learning moments. Not bad!

Mile 13: Running sideways and starting to feel it

And that’s where my mind was at, but how was my body doing? As I approached Mile 13 my legs felt more tired than usual. Looking back I think it was a combination of two things.

1) For the most part I did train on streets and pavement knowing the terrain of the Chicago Marathon but I will say that one thing that stood out was how different it is to run on the city streets. I don’t have any scientific  data or evidence, so all I can say is that it’s just different and I could really feel it in my legs.

2) The other thing that played a role was the fact that during the marathon I was rarely running straight for very long, especially in the first half. For much of the race I was bunched together with other runners I was doing a lot of weaving in and out, stopping and starting, speeding up and slowing down, and in some case I was actually hopping in between people in order to get ahead and find running paths. And I’m sure all that extra effort put extra pounding on my legs that added up. And that was a big reason why I felt more tired feeling around the halfway point. But what I didn’t expect was a big surge at mile 21. More about that in a bit.

Yes, I did have moments of doubts. I expected to. I intentionally trained without music and focused on using meditation and mindfulness concepts to quiet my mind. I learned a lot from reading this excellent book Running with the Mind of Meditation. This turned out to be one of my favorite parts and most valuable elements of my training as it helped me to cope with physical pain and mental obstacles like doubt, fear and uncertainty, all of which were major obstacles in the later stages.

Miles 14-16: Beyond the cheer zone and the race within the race

My first big wave of pain and doubt set in after the Mile 14 cheer zone. I would say that Miles 15-16 were some of the most solitary, quiet and contemplative too. As we left the mighty roar and inspiring adrenaline rush of the cheer zone behind us, you could feel the struggle set in and tension thicken in the air.

The emotional buzz of racing through the downtown din quickly wore off and I could feel and hear the murmur of the subconscious thoughts begin to bubble up and creep in. A strange sense of hyper-awareness came over me. I tried to run faster to run away from the unwanted thoughts but they were still there keeping pace with me. It was such a profound moment. It was the first time during the race that I felt like I was running away from something – and it was all happening in my mind.

It was a strangely surreal feeling to experience. It was like a race within a race. For a moment I forgot I was in the marathon and then I blinked a remembered I was running again.

The rhythm of the shoes pounding the pavement and synchronized breath of the runners around me thrusted me into a deeper contemplative flow. For a moment the fear of this thought chasing me went away and a new thought popped into my mind.

I realized I didn’t need to keep running from what was chasing me in my mind but instead I needed to slow down mentally and face what I was running from head on. I needed to let it catch me so I could conquer the fear I felt.

So I did let it catch me and this is what I found myself hearing as I slowed my mind down to listen…

Don’t let running be only about running from something or running to achieve something. Running is so much more than that. It’s about running to a new destination of self-discovery. It’s about being one person when you start and arriving back where you started as someone new.

It’s about being fearless and courageous enough to face the emotions and fears that bubble up while you’re running and not forgetting them once you stopping running but instead taking action in your life on those very thoughts.

And when you run with an open heart and mind you’re going to discover things about yourself that might be painful or terrify you to your core. But you must embrace it all. The good and bad. The joy and the fear. This is one of THE REASONS why you run, Chris: to face, cope with and conquer pain and fear in all areas of your life.

That was hard to hear because, for me, running is so often something I do to feel good and escape but it was a divine and sublime message that I needed to hear. And ever since I’ve continued to wrestle with those thoughts hoping to put them into action more in my life.

Miles 21-23: Into the unknown without my brother and why I love Pilsen

I didn’t expect what happened at Mile 20. To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect beyond 20 miles. The plan was to run the entire race with my brother but it didn’t work out that way. At around Mile 21 my brother had some issues with his leg and waved me on to go on ahead without him.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yes, go!” he yelled waving his hand.

So on I went in to Pilsen and into Chinatown.

Then came one of my favorite moments of the marathon: running through the hispanic neighborhood of Pilsen. I will always remember the glorious thumping, pumping and pounding of the tubas, drums and guitars coming from the mariachi bands.

I know this might sound weird but I didn’t really hit “The Wall.” at Mile 20. I expected to but it never happened. During miles 20 through 24 I felt a surge of energy I didn’t expect. And I’m sure it’s no mistake that those mariachi bands are at this point in the race, and I tip my hat and say thanks to the race directors for the strategic placement of the tuba and mariachi by the race directors. I sure needed those tubas then and I will never forget how it all made me feel.

Miles 24-25: MMA fights and baptisms

At Mile 24 and 25 the physical side of myself was so broken down and my emotions and mind were so raw and unavoidable. I could no longer hide behind what my body could do. I was running on pure emotion, grit and will. All of my fears, doubts and anxieties were right there taunting, poking and punching me. It’s was like a violent and twisted MMA fight inside my body and mind. It was hard to separate the external cheers from the internal jeers and vice versa.

From that point on it was a series of rapid-fire visceral and mental and physical thrashings. I had no choice but to dig down and find a deeper level of spiritual contemplation and emotional revelation. A lot of weird thoughts went through my mind. I was coming to the end of my physical self and I literally thought about everything in my life. My wife, my son, my daughter that’s on the way, my job at Walgreens, my dad who passed away in 2010. My successes and my failures. It all rushed at me, full force.

Back and forth the inner battle went. Sometimes my body was crying out wanting to quit and other times my mind was screaming ENOUGH! I felt great then…I felt like shit. But I fought through it knowing that each of those moments were only a temporary moment of doubt and pain.

Then suddenly I remembered what I read in George Sheehan’s classic book Running and Being, where he sagely says that running and going beyond our physical self in a marathon and pushing ourselves beyond our physical and spiritual limits is like an act of holy sanctification, our sweat is like a baptism and the whole experience is a rebirth and cleansing of the soul. I then felt the sticky and sweat drenched shirt clinging to my chest, arms and back. I smiled and looked up to the heavens. Took a deep breath and my mind calmed back down. I acknowledge the pain I was feeling, accepted it and ran on through it.

I was pretty pumped up as I neared the end of the marathon. It’s was hard not to be. And at Mile 25 got lost in the moment. I remember grabbing a banana from the aid station, then downing some water. I remember slapping someone another high-five.

For a moment I forgot where I was on the course. Then I had this enormous sense of self-awareness come over me. Then at the same time everyone around me faded away and it was as if it was as I was the only one running the marathon. It was like I was floating above the pavement.

It was a beautiful thing. It was a spectacular spiritual moment to behold.

Moments like this don’t happen to often, so for a few steps I closed my eyes, kicked my head back and extended my arms to my side like a soaring plane. I put my palms up and smiled up at the sky as I felt the sunshine hitting my face and soaked in the glory of the moment. And on I went to the final mile.

Mile 26: Completing THE MISSION and scaring ladies

I opened my eyes and had my game face on. I quickened my pace. It was time to finish THE MISSION. Heading into the final stretch I felt emotionally spent but spiritually strong. I felt physically tired but still searching for something more and wanting to see what I could do beyond my physical and emotional means.

I loved the final moments of the marathon and the only real downside to this moment was that I scared a few other runners as I cranked out and powered through the last mile. I let out a few tribal yells (including a few fist-pumping F-bombs and extra curse words to push myself.)

That said, I’d like to take a moment to say sorry to the two runners I scared. Sorry, ladies. I hope I didn’t startle you too much as I came up behind you as we all scurried down Michigan avenue and turned on to Columbus Drive and made our way to the finish line. I hope you both weren’t too scared and had a great finish to your race.

Beyond 26.2: New behaviors, real life challenges and what’s next

I took about a week off after the marathon. Yes, I was sore and hobbling right after the race. About halfway through Monday I started to feel better and I took my first post-marathon run on Friday and felt pretty good.

As I recovered I stuck to my training diet (which is now what I normally eat) and ate the usual mix of recovery food which for me included protein shakes, fish oil pills, chia seeds, greek yogurt, quinoa, etc. And as a bonus, I’ve continued to eat quinoa and chia seeds before and after runs which I didn’t before and I feel great.

Since the marathon, I’ve also had many moments in my personal life and at work where life has challenged me and I’ve looked back at my marathon experience for strength, clarity and inspiration. And I love the fact that I’ve been able to do transfer my marathon experience in to real life moments because that’s exactly what I was hoping this whole adventure would do. I wanted to do something I’ve never done before so that I could use the experience to overcome challenges in other areas of my life.

So what’s next? Well, I’ve been planning my next race adventure as I look at doing a trail run or half marathon in 2015 and maybe even an ultra in the near future.

I hope my marathon story has inspired you to run a marathon or do something you’ve never done before. I hope it’s inspired you to not only do something like this for yourself but do it to support others and to connect with the world around you and the world and feelings that are inside of you.

I can’t say enough how honored I feel to have had the opportunity to make my training and marathon matter beyond myself and support the MMRF and my aunt Angie. Because of that, there’s one question I’ve really pondering; “how can I make each run count?” I don’t want to be the only person to benefit from running, training and racing. I want my physical activity to help make the world a better place.

That said, since the marathon I’ve been experimenting with and planning on doing a few things.

1. I’ve been using the Charity Miles running app. So far I’ve enjoyed using it and each run I do I get to pick a different charity to support. It’s a pretty cool app and I love the concept and like my Fitbit experiment I’ll be sharing a full review and thoughts on the Charity Miles app in the future.

2. I’m planning on volunteering for a race. In his book “Eat and Run,” Scott Jurek encourages all runners to give back and volunteer at a race and I’m looking at organizations like Chicago Run and local races to donate my time and efforts to help others.

3. I know I need to connect more with other runners. Running is such a solitary sport and it feeds my natural introvert tendencies. So I need to be intentional about seeking out community. I really miss the meaningful experience I had training and running the marathon with my brother and because of that I’m aiming to connect more with other runners and get involved with more group runs and local running groups.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll be sure to share more as I continue to reflect and hit the road and running trails. Congrats to all my fellow Chicago marathon runners and I hope to hear about your experiences too, and I invite you to share them in the comments below.

Spread the love...

No Sports for A Year Update #1: Oh, The Things I’m Learning!

Image

 

kentext

It’s been 136 days since I began my experiment to not watch any sports for a year.

So how’s it going?

Well, it’s been fun, hard and revealing to say the least. And here’s a collection of thoughts, findings and questions that have surfaced so far.

It’s Simply Complicated

For the most part, some days it’s easy and other days it’s hard not to watch sports.

I’ve noticed that the degree of ease and difficulty has fallen into and been dependent on these three categories:

  • My current emotional state; to what degree do I need sports to help me escape from or cope with any given life situation?
  • My engrained habits; how much of my body and brain’s auto-pilot has been trained to just flip on a game without even thinking about it? (Apparently I do have some degree of sports addiction.)
  • The impact on my relationships; How do I connect with people and what have I learned from this crazy choice I’ve made?

 

The Big Games: A Big Deal or A Big Waste of Time?

When it comes to the big sport events I’ve started to keep a tally of how many I’ve not watched. In a funny way I’ve actually become somewhat proud of myself that I’ve been able to do this and take this experiment this far. Like running a marathon, this experiment has become a true test of endurance and in some cases I feel like I’m developing a new not-watching-sports muscle.

So far I’ve not watched the Super Bowl, Olympics, Final Four, NHL Playoffs, MLB opening day (yes, I consider that major sporting event for the last 30 years of my life). Yes, I have missed watching these games, but on the other hand, I’ve not. Why? Because I’ve been able to finish books, write, run, spend time with family and do other things that have more meaning for me.

This is a strange and unsettling discovery that I’ve had to wrestle with. I’m at odds with that feeling because I’m not quite sure what that means.

I’ve had to ask myself…are the Big Games really important to me or are they just a big time suck holding me back? If they are important, then why? What do I get out of watching them? What do I lose if I do? Who do I lose if I don’t watch the Big Games or any live sports?

To be honest, there’s a part of me that really loves to watch live sports but there’s another part of me that loves the feeling of doing those other things. I’m not quite sure on the value or significance of this conflict of feeling. But I know it’s turning out to be a thought that I must unpack and understand. And hopefully I’ll have more clarity as this experiment continues.

What If…We All Didn’t Watch Sports For A Year?

I’ve also started to think about the financial impact of this sort of experiment. What would happen if everyone in America did this for a year?

That said, I heard this enlightening  commentary by NPR’s Frank Defourd about the supporting the home team from the comfort of your couch. In it he mentions that the fact that sports teams don’t make as nearly as much money when people go to the ballpark as when people watch on TV at home.

So, yes, I’m probably making a very (very) small dent in the revenue department of major sports teams, but, I wonder…what if more people didn’t watch sports for a year? What would be the financial impact of that?

Besides the money, other thoughts have popped into my head like…

Would the world be a better place if we didn’t watch live sports? Would we all see sports in a different way? Would this new perspective empower us to value the relationships and connections we have with other because of sports? Would we end up watching more live sports after we’ve realized how much the act means to us and others around us?

Heck, I know this experiment is starting to do all those things for me.

One of the things I’m being forced to do is to think more deeply about why I do watch sports, how live sports has changed my life and how live sports is both a healthy and unhealthy emotional escape.

Why Do I Get Emotional: It’s Just Live Sports?

I’m being forced to think and go deeper to understand why I get all teary eyed and emotional when I tell people about my first time watching a Cubs game at Wrigley Field with my dad. Or why I feel within myself a visceral mix of emotions (joy, excitement, sadness, grief, etc) when I tell them about my fondest memories learning how to yell “Green Bay sucks” in sub-zero weather at a Bears game when I was eight years old. Are those buried emotions, and not actual live game itself on TV, the driving force behind my desire and need to watch live sports?

Besides the emotions and psychological fodder that has begun to bubble up, the other  habitual and social challenges.

I’ve learned that it’s nearly impossible to avoid watching sports in our culture. Sports are everywhere; on our minds; at the core of most social interactions. Sports even define our worldview and for some it’s a religion deeply rooted in fabric of our lives.

Yes, I knew all that stuff before I started doing this experiment but now I’ve had the chance to step back and think about what all that stuff really means. And I’ve been forced to ask myself the tough questions.  Is the amount of live sports we watch good? Is it bad? If so, why? And what do we benefit by watching hours and hours of live sports?

How does live sports help us make sense of the world around us? How does it help us we cope with life’s struggles?

Yes, there are many good things about watching sports but, like all good things in life, watching sports has a dark side and I’m realizing that too.

Watching sports can help us avoid things we must do. Watching sports can slyly and subtly make us too sedentary (mentally, physically and socially) where all we do is play the spectator too much and never get off the couch to join in the game. I do have to say that I’ve enjoyed playing sports more now that I’m not watching as much.

Of course the goal here (no pun intended) is to strike a healthy balance and aim to find the right mix of watching and doing. And that’s what I’m trying to figure out what that means for myself.

Confession: My Eyeballs and Live Sports

I have to be honest and say that my eyeballs have caught glimpses of games over these last several months.This is because of the simple fact that I can’t cut myself off from the world and the world is full of sports. I’ve been at sports bars to connect with co-workers and friends, and it’s nearly impossible to not let your eyes fall for a split second on live game. But in those situations yet another thought has intrigued me.

In these situations I’ve both realized how much a welcomed distraction sports are to relationships, especially in those awkward moments where nobody has anything to say and we’re all just watching the game, sipping our drinks and then a dramatic play happens and we all cheer together or comment on how great the play was, maybe do a little smack talk, swap some hive-fives and then the next conversation starts.

I’ve also realized how hard it is to truly focus on the conversation when a billion sports games are flashing and flickering all around me on giant flat screen TVs. Again, is this truth a good thing or bad thing? I also know that what’s happening in these social sports situation is nothing to just gloss over and avoid. There’s something big happening here.

So to answer some of these questions and make sense of my own experiment I’ve turned to the experts.

secret live of sports fans

In the book the The Secret Lives Of Sports Fans Eric Simons explores this crazy sports-watching obsession we have. It’s been great to read the book and fascinating to read his work and put a sociological and biologically context on my own experiment. I’ve been learning just how genetically wired we are to love sports and why it’s important to be aware of the chemical process that’s going on in our bodies when we watch sports. On future updates, I’ll be sharing more about how that book is shaping and enlightening my own experiment.

Family and Friends and The “Fake Sports” Conversation

I’ve taken special note of the responses and reactions of family and friends. When I first started out my family and friends were aware of my experiment and they would ask me about it and want to know why I was doing it. In some cases some family even went so far as to not watch a game because they didn’t want me to “break my vow.”  Yes, they actually called my experiment a vow. Like I’m a monk on a religious quest. I thought that was interesting.

But now that nearly 6 months have gone by, those same people have largely forgotten. So what I’ve had to do is either gently remind them that I can’t when they ask me to go hang out and watch the game.

Or if I find myself in a “hey, did you watch that game last night” water cooler conversation I’ve been testing out a “fake sports” conversations sub-experiment and pretending like I did watch the game. I carry on the conversation using my past sports knowledge. Why do this? I want to see if they can figure out that I didn’t watch the game and I want to see just how much of an impact not watching sports has on relationships beyond family and friends. I also want to so what I might discover about the role that watching live sports plays in initial interactions with those around me. To be honest those “fake sports” conversations have been some of the more expectedly entertaining and fascinating parts of this experiment and I’m looking forward to sharing more of what I discover.

Those most people have forgotten, I do have to credit my younger brother Ken for keeping my experiment always on his mind. While at work he continues to send me texts of game scores and messages with pictures of Wrigley field asking me if I remember what that place was.

Thanks, Ken. Those texts are priceless. Your playoff beard is coming in nicely too. Maybe I should have grown a no live sports beard? Maybe next time.

The Real Reason I Watch Live Sports?

One of the hardest, most fascinating and revelatory parts of not watching sports has been the impact it has had on my relationships.

Even though I’m an introvert (I recently discovered and accepted this), I still love connecting with people. I love relationships. I love getting out of my own head and into the hearts and minds of others. So I’m an introvert that loves to be an extravert? I’m not even sure what that means?

What I do know is that by doing this experiment I’ve begun to think more about how I’m wired up and how watching sports impacts and has influenced the type of person I am and the type of person I have become.  In some cases I’ve realized that I could actually care less about the game that’s on TV and I’m watching it because I want to connect with people.

In some cases I’ve realized that I also watch sports to prepare for interactions with people.  What does that mean?

Well, here’s what I think that means.  If I’m meeting someone for the first time I always try to find a common ground. And in most cases, live sports is that common ground.  But now that I’ve removed watching sports from my life I’m finding that there’s an awkward pause. Do I tell them what I’m doing or do I have a “fake sports” conversation with them?

It’s been a 50/50 split. Sometimes I carry on the fake sports chat or sometimes I tell them about my experiment. And I’ve been surprised in both situations.

Sometimes people are interested and they ask me about it and other times they say “oh, that’s cool.” And then nothing comes of my “no live sports” disclosure and we then try to talk about other things.

Other times I’ve had some really great chats about why other people watch live sports and they start to ask me what I’ve learned and then they end up sharing a live sports story about themselves.

What’s been both fun and challenging is my process for picking which people I tell and which people I have a fake chat with.  Those type of situations have been interesting to experience as it’s shown me the level of skill or aptitude certain people have for being able to talk about more than just the game and instead go deeper to explain what the game means to them and why they watch sports.

And I really want to know the significance of the awkward pause. What does that say about me? About that person? What does this tell me about the connection I have or don’t have to those around me? What does this say about the role that live sports plays in how we all relate and connect with each other?

This No Sports Experiment has been both beautifully strange and utterly fascinating to me and I’m still sorting it all out. I’ve actually have more questions now than when I started this experiment. There’s just so much to it and each day a new thought and revelation rabbit hole pops up that I love to jump down into and explore.

That said, there’s been lots more that I’ve learned but I wanted to share these initial insights with you to see what you think and I’d love to get your take on this too.

That’s all for now on this update and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. My 19-month old son Calvin just woke up and it’s time to be a dad and hang out, run around the house listening to Wilson Picket’s “Land of 1,000 Dances” and Gold Frapp’s “Ooh La La” over and over again because that’s what we do on Sundays, besides watch sports. Well, maybe not this year, anyway. And maybe I’ll tell him all about this crazy experiment when he gets older.

Spread the love...