Friday, January 25, 2008

Confessions of a Sports Junkie

Sport - a particular activity (as an athletic game) so engaged in
Junkie - a person who derives inordinate pleasure from or who is dependent on something

Thus defined, a sports junkie would be an individual who is mad about playing sports. In terms of physical and mental health, this generally wouldn’t be considered such a bad thing.

In our society, however, the term has morphed into a description of an individual who is mad about watching sports, primarily on TV. A sports junkie is therefore some sort of extreme sports fan, as in fanatic.

Fanatic - marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion

One could certainly draw into question both the physical and mental health of just such a specimen. (For those interested in carrying out any scientific study, I would recommend doing so on February 3, when essentially the entire male population of Sports Junkies will be glued to their televisions and couches, gawking in awe at the Mecca of all Sports Junkie events – The Super Bowl. The much rarer female Sports Junkie may also be present, although sitings of the female are scarce indeed.)

I’ve never really thought of myself as a Sports Junkie, although a number of my close friends, especially my sister, would beg to differ. My thinking has been that I actually have other hobbies and activities that keep me occupied, so my entire life is not spent in front of the tube watching sports. In my mind, that makes me a casual sport watching enthusiast.

That said I’ve been known to watch 3 NFL football games in a row on a Sunday. Regardless of the fact that this is done as part of an exclusive “Haute Cuisine NFL” club, where we consume high end food and drink and discuss politics and philosophy while cheering on the Seattle Seahawks, some would say this makes me an addict, and thus a Sports Junkie. My sister finds the behavior appalling and in need of an intervention. I find it charming, amusing and quite, well, normal.

Nonetheless, an event occurred last night that I’m afraid leaves no doubt in the great Dave-as-Sports Junkie debate. For last night was the Men’s Semi-Final at the Australian Open. (That’s a tennis tournament for those of you not in the know, one of the four major annual tournaments). It promised to be a memorable match, with Roger Federer, the world’s number 1 player, taking on his most likely eventual successor at that lofty designation, Novak Djokovic.

Federer has been number 1 for as long as anyone can remember, but Djokovic has been closing in on him; beating him in some minor tournaments, and challenging him at several majors. Last night’s match promised to be something special, and I was determined to watch it – live.

There was just one small complication. The Australian Open is held in, where else, Australia (Melbourne, to be exact). I live in Vancouver, Canada, where the live feed started at 12:30 in the wee hours of the morning. If I were a sane person, a “non-fanatic” as it were, I would have set the VCR and watched the match at some reasonable hour over the upcoming weekend.

But a true aficionado of sport is not satisfied with day-old product. No, a true fan needs to see the match as it happens, with no chance of finding out who won prior to watching the events unfold. It’s almost as if the knowledge that the combatants are actually engaged in competition as you watch means that you’re a part of it. Sure, you’re half way across the world as you jump and scream during set point, or gnaw your nails to the bone during a third set tie breaker, but that’s the excitement of watching sports on TV when it’s live. Doing the same to a taped version of the same event would just be silly. Right?

So last night as I went to bed around 11, I set the alarm for 1 AM and promptly fell asleep. It was rather difficult to shake off the cobwebs when the alarm pulled me out of a deep sleep, but I managed to find the match on TV and propped myself up to watch history unfold.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the five set marathon match I expected, but rather was a three set dismantling of the world’s number 1 by his younger opponent. There was some great tennis, but in the end, it was no contest. Djokovic had prevailed in less than three hours and the clock had yet to strike 4 AM. This was in its own way good news, because it meant that I could squeeze in another three hours of shut eye before my alarm would go off a second time, signifying it was time to get up and head to work. My late night sports watching plan didn’t seem so crazy after all.

There was just one small unforeseen problem. After the match I couldn’t sleep. No matter how hard I tried to convince myself otherwise, I was wide awake. Consequently, instead of merrily snoring away for the few hours I had left to do so, I all but finished reading Billy Bathgate, channel surfed and essentially watched the clock slowly march on towards dawn...

Thus, I am here before you to admit that, in certain cases and according to some people’s interpretation of the definition, I am indeed a Sports Junkie. I must be. The dark, puffy circles under my sunken eyes are a telltale sign, as is the incessant shaking of my hands and the odd head twitch I seem to have developed. My co-workers have been whispering about me all morning over at the water cooler. And, as with many other addictions, it has led to harder stuff. I’m currently on my third double espresso of the day. Sports Junkie, meet Coffee Junkie!


Anonymous said...

The game between Hewitt and ?? finished the other night at 4am Melbourne time which is probably the game you should have been watching. You would have been able to sleep at the decent time of 11pm.