The Case For Simply Watching the Game

S9030001I moved in to a new apartment yesterday. Partially moved-in, at least. I still had a bunch of stuff to move and procure, as you can judge from the empty shelves and general disheveledness of the above photo. This was my temporary television viewing setup. Small chair and small television.

I will be acquiring a much larger television today, which is good if only because it will be a size that matches its stand. There’s a futon mattress just out of frame behind the chair, which does not have its frame yet and will not until about the middle of the week. It will not be small chair and small television on large stand forever, is what I’m trying to say. It looks even funnier when modeled by me:


I watched basically an entire college basketball game like that last night! And it was one of the best college basketball games I’ve ever watched, even if the result was not what I wanted – Colorado State had at one point a 20-point lead, San Diego State (which is one of the ones I went to) worked their way back to the point of taking a one-point lead in the final seconds, only for Colorado State’s best player to hit really an excellent shot that clinched the game back for them. Colorado State wore their throwback jerseys, which was confusing because they apparently used to wear orange, even though they wear green, a color far away from orange, and SDSU wears red, which is close to orange, at least closer to orange than green, which was confusing. They could’ve done that for a team that doesn’t wear red. They could’ve done that for Air Force or San Jose State. That was frustrating. The end result was also frustrating.

Anyway, regardless, it was a great game. Also, earlier in the night, I read this article in The Athletic:

Matt Pentz’s “What it’s like to be a USMNT lightning rod for criticism”

It’s a solid article, I recommend it, it covers and interviews former players who received a lot of criticism for performances with the USMNT, like Chris Wondolowski and Jonathan Bornstein, as well as current players like Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson. (Which might seem odd to say because, since the summer, there isn’t a lot of stuff to criticize with Antonee Robinson, but a lot of people were highly critical of his national team performances before these rounds of World Cup Qualifying) Playing for the United States Men’s National Team invites an atypically significant, or at least atypically vitriolic, amount of criticism, at least compared to in other American sports.

It’s a curious thing, though, reading this article. There’s a quote from the young Real Salt Lake and Mexico national team goalkeeper David Ochoa on his feeling about social media:

“I think it’s one of the worst parts of the game, honestly,” Ochoa said. “A lot of people are watching you, and a lot of people can say some pretty hurtful things.”

And that’s true! It is one of the worst parts of the game. Frankly it’s one of the worst parts of life right now! Frankly I think that social media (at least in its modern versions) is one of the worst overall trends in society! Frankly I think in hundreds of years historians will look at Facebook the way that we look at the lead in the pipes in Rome. Frankly it’s going to drive me mad, how is it that we have this phenomenon that everyone agrees is horrible, like deleterious to our social existences as people, that it was a mistake we wish desperately we could undo but understand that we can’t, and yet we keep on it all the time anyway? Frankly I think I feel this way about the internet in general but that’s a different discussion. I’m just talking in a Cost-Benefit sense.

The segment that really stuck out to me from this article came early on –

“If you were half-watching the game while also browsing Twitter on your laptop or phone, a cacophony of criticism swiftly, predictably emerged.

This is just a fascinating sentence to me. Pentz dropping connotative words like “cacaphony” and “predictably” in there to paint the entire phenomenon as inherently detrimental. And I agree with him on that point, I think that point is the entire point of this entire post, but what astounds me is how unquestionable it all seems. Because I see this so commonly, and I saw it in the comments for the article

We’re just obligated, expected to half-watch and follow along on our phones? We just have to join the conversation on social media? We have to add our little comments into the pool of other little comments as the game goes on?

Why do we do this to ourselves? It sucks, right? Isn’t it just awful most of the time? And when it isn’t bad, is it even good? What is the platonic ideal of a Reddit match thread comment? What does the best possible mid-game live-tweet look like? How good can that even be?

Is it worthy of taking your attention from a World Cup Qualifier? We only do that once every four years, there are only fourteen of those games in this cycle (and normally there are only ten!) What if you miss a crucial moment, a goal, a fantastic save, because you were reading what Matt Doyle had to say about something that happened five minutes prior? Is that worth it?

You don’t have to post! You don’t have to do any of this! I feel sympathetic for someone like Ochoa, who is probably pressured to post on social media for the sake of building ‘his brand’ in order to potentially get a better contract or more endorsements down the line, especially if he hates it. Though I must admit, nobody has been as good at building his brand purely through his on-field actions and antics as David Ochoa was in the 2021 MLS season. I have never seen a single David Ochoa tweet or Instagram post, but I can adequately brand him as “generally antagonistic to opposing fans,” through his actions in every RSL game I watched, which is something I can’t say as easily for anyone else on RSL, and I mean that both specifically in the antagonism and non-specifically in the sense that I cannot name a personality trait of anyone else on RSL. But we don’t have to! I don’t have to! You don’t have to! We have the freedom to put our phone in a different room and not know what the users of Twitter have to say, or at least not know what they have to say at that specific moment.

It astounds me. We accept that it’s low-quality, it’s reactionary, it’s worthless, what goes on social media (particularly Twitter) during games, but we keep wading back in to it for some reason. We echo the words of a former Twitter savant – “That’s okay, I’ll still keep drinking that garbage.”  And I do it too, I admit, lest you believe that I’m typing this from atop a high horse. I do it less than I used to, and I vastly prefer not doing it, but I do it sometimes, and every time, it sucks.

But the small chair and small television method I employed last night? Oh, buddy. That is a way to watch and enjoy a game to the fullest extent. Nothing but a man, his chair, and premier roundball excitement – Ten men, one ball, two hoops, and a dream, and a Brian Dutcher team that is astoundingly good defensively but astoundingly inconsistent offensively. There’s nothing better. Other than perhaps a large chair, large television setup with the same level of focus and appreciation. And maybe you text one or two beloved friends during the game during commercials? Oh! What a feeling! Or perhaps a barstool surrounded by friends, large television setup. Or even perhaps a stadium seat, field of play setup, that’s actually the ideal. But I couldn’t get that because I live in Lawrence now and that game was in Fort Collins.

But next time, next game, just try it. Do a trial run. Maybe even just on a game you don’t care about, find some college hockey game on ESPN+. Find one of the events in the Winter Olympics that are allegedly happening right now. It might be hard, we have been conditioned to keep up with the timeline during games for probably around a decade. I don’t even doubt that it was good back then, like I have fond memories of reading Twitter during the Super Bowl in the early 2010s and having fun with it. But it isn’t good now! And we all know it! You know what is still good, though? The sport. The game. I promise. I full-heartedly recommend simply watching the game.

I apologize for if that came across as condescending but I really think this way is better, at least for me. I also acknowledge my hypocrisy with regards to Twitter, seeing how I still have an account there, but my arms-length approach I use now where substack auto-posts things and I don’t read my timeline is good enough because I know people who would otherwise want to read my writing wouldn’t be able to easily access it if it weren’t posted on Twitter.

About Joe Bush

The guy behind and a lot of other things
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