Maybe we weren't meant to think so deeply about sports

I wanna take a step back for a minute, and discuss something important.

There’s an ESPN Radio station down here in Austin, AM 1530, that plays the Mothership’s full programming lineup day-in and day-out, with the exception of some UT games, and the occasional Texas Stars tilt in the AHL. There’s no local sports programming whatsoever. Just Mike & Mike, then the Herd, then Doug Gottlieb, Brian Kenny and Jason Smith. Then, they do it all over again from the top.

Now, at first, I thought this would bother me. “No local coverage? But how will I dig into _____” and the static that followed was not of the shoddy reception, but rather of my own lack of empathy to the local sports market, and, finally, to my own realization that I never listened to local sports radio much, anyway.

WGR up in Buffalo is a fine local radio station. It’s perfect for the market, all bluster and blue-collar with hard-working, colorful local radio personalities. But I never listened to it. I listened to Scott Van Pelt and Freddie Coleman and Jason Smith. I watched PTI. I listened to the Matthew Berry and Bill Simmons podcasts (though, in Simmons’ case in particular, the quality of his program is wildly inconsistent, and it all depends upon the quality of his guests). And that’s it. Still my routine.

As much as I enjoy Buffalo sports, I realized outside of watching (or listening to) the games and reading the local columnists and corresponding SB Nation Blogs for the Bills and Sabres and Syracuse Orange, I didn’t really need all that extra local coverage. Just give me the game locally, and the compelling national storylines, delivered by smooth, polished, engaging personalities – of which there are precious few.

All this extra stuff, all the incessant 24-7 coverage, the rampant repetition of tired talking points by local and national media .. it is exhausting. I feel by 530pm, I can arrange PTI’s entire C-block by myself. Local sports hosts expressing trumped-up outrage over trading a fifth-round draft pick … is exhausting. It registers an 0.8 on my Quality-of-Life Richter Scale.

Over half of all men who wish to go into television broadcasting start out by going into sports. I was one of them. I did the weather for a year. That was enough. Amazingly, based upon the volume of talent it takes to put together a pre-game show, there’s enough jobs for them. Are we losing sight of what’s really important?

Maybe we were supposed to just wake up, listen to our favorite personality deliver the sports news and watch the game at night. Stats can be followed at our leisure. If we were that big into numbers that really mattered, maybe we’d all be stock traders instead of stat junkies. Maybe we could come up with pro-bowl ballots for the S&P, or Top 10 Sexiest Senators.

It doesn’t have that ring to it. At least not yet. For all our deep thinking and disproportionately-placed passion is squarely centered upon sports, for which there are now nearly 300 radio stations devoted squarely to them.

Hi, sir, long-time listener. First-time caller. Why does the lack of a promising prospect at Left Tackle anger you more, sir, than your kid’s juvenile arrest record?


Who do I cheer for when my team doesn't make the playoffs?

I know it seems laughable now, but there was once a time when my beloved Buffalo Bills were a perennial playoff contender.

Between the 1988 and 1999 seasons (basically my entire recall-able childhood), the Bills made the playoffs 10 times – reaching four consecutive Super Bowls and winning 11 playoff games during that span. That kind of extended run of excellence is relatively rare, so my fan expectations were raised to unreasonable levels when it came to playing football in January.

Since the dawn of the third millennium A.D., the Bills have been shut out of postseason play. I now know what it must be like to be a Detroit Lions fan.

When hope is lost and your team has played its last game, your next move is crucial. What team should you back when the playoffs begin?

I present to you three ground rules:

1.) Any team from your division is out. You detest these teams during the regular season and wish pestilence upon their coaches, so you have no business cheering for them once the playoffs start. That’s like cheating on your girlfriend with her über hot best friend – provided said best friend is tactlessly trying to set her up with other guys and constantly whispering in her ear what a drunk, degenerate, immature gorilla she is dating. It might feel good while the cheating’s hot and happening, but after it’s over you’ll feel like crying to an Air Supply album.

2.) Any team that has absolutely no shot to win a game is out. *Ahem* NFC West. You don’t want to be left without your team after the initial wild card weekend. What good is switching horses in midstream just to finish racing one week later? You should have known better. Now you do.

3.) Any team the national media has a not-so-subtle crush on / has created a bandwagon for / or has overexposed to the point of fatigue is also out.  You want a true underdog, not a media-fabricated “true underdog story.”

Please choose wisely, and remember – regardless of which team you select – to savor these games, for in five weeks you’ve seen the last of football until September arrives.

NFL Preview: What if there is no hope for your favorite team?

Hi, my name is John, and I’m a Buffalo Bills fan.

(Hi, John!)

My team has gone an entire decade since their last playoff appearance, and has had four head coaches, seven offensive coordinators and eight starting quarterbacks in that same time frame. They play in the second-smallest market in the NFL, receive no national media coverage, and have won exactly one game against the division rival New England Patriots since 2000.

The Bills have done nothing to shore up the quarterback and offensive line positions, their biggest glaring weaknesses from last year’s 6-10 squad, yet the new GM and Coach spent their first-round draft choice on a Felix Jones-type scatback, although they had two thousand-yard rushers already on the roster.

We ran Terrell Owens out of town, and he was a model citizen.

In short, they’re totally going to suck. Like epically, completely, Mariah Carey in Glitter or the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa suck.

I went to a preseason game this past Saturday, where they beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 35-20. It was the first time I’d seen the Bills win a game – of any kind – in person in seven seasons. I’ve been to 10 games. The game I just saw doesn’t count.

How starved are we for success? This happened.

In the second quarter. With the score tied at 14. In a preseason game.

When prognosticators are universally projecting your team to finish dead last in your division, and win somewhere in the neighborhood of three games all year, and one of your home games is being played in a foreign country, and there’s no doubt your team will relocate once your 90 year-old owner finally croaks, you’ll do most anything to take your mind off the action at hand.

That’ll just about wrap up today’s action. We’ll see you again tomorrow. Preseason football: CATCH THE FEVER.