It’s been a silly season for sports enthusiasts, especially here in the States. The NBA playoffs have been unusually compelling, as have been those of the NHL. The first third of the baseball season has been typically unpredictable and exciting, and we’re well into the tennis and golf seasons of major championships.
It’s easy for the corruptions of professional sports to distract from how compelling they can be. Timothy Egan writes in today’s NY Times about how schadenfreude–the sense of delight at the calamity of others–can ruin our enjoyment of games. It’s interesting that he was pulling for the Heat because of the departure of the old Supersonics from Seattle (the franchise that is now the Oklahoma City Thunder).
Many basketball fans across the country were pulling in the opposite direction because of LeBron James’s departure from Cleveland. Schadenfreude, ironically enough, was at work on both sides.
What I love about sports, however, is the open-endedness of it. How’s it going to turn out? How will this game end? What turns will the game take that prove decisive? As Egan notes, so much of contemporary public life is scripted and predictable. Games break into the predictability of life and introduce unexpected high drama. In addition to this, I’m amazed at the precision and skill of modern athletes.
Egan has words of wisdom, in my opinion. Don’t be caught up in schadenfreude (hear me, Cleveland!?), and don’t be distracted by the corruptions of modern sport. Appreciate the beauties of our games and the joys they provide.