Yes. You. The viewer. The reader. The fan. The game-watching, twitter-following, facebook-liking, article-reading, music-listening human being. Maybe you’re the casual fan who watches one NFL game a week then forgets about sports until others bring it up. Maybe you’re the stat-nerd who wins all sorts of debates. Perhaps you’re the middle class white guy who wears snapbacks and thinks he has a certification in baller (hey I’m right there with you). You might have stronger opinions on the designated hitter than Rush Limbaugh has on income tax. You may like any number of different sports, watch a variety of television and film, and read a range of literature. If you care at all for any sports, you make up today’s sport-watching culture. And this article is for you. (Just in case anyone is reading this who doesn’t really care about sports, I think you should read this anyway. Because sports are more than a game and life is more than sports).
“Commentary on sports and the way we watch them” is the tagline for my blog. In today’s media world, that’s really become the norm in sports writing. The world of sports has become much more than what happens on the field of play. And, somehow, popular culture in general has become an area of expertise for sports fans. Makes sense when you think about it. The strength of a sports journalist is the ability to watch something, think it over, then communicate what happened. So this just kind of naturally transfers from sports to movies and television (and commercials). There will always be the sports reporter that goes to the game and then writes down what happened, commenting on trends and statistics from game to game, but the “cool” sports journalist ends up writing long and rambling articles that ultimately speak of the changing nature of NBA offenses while commenting on Kendrick Lamar and Mad Men.
And that’s what some of us want to be: a guy with thousands of twitter followers who comes up with witty tweets, has an advanced understanding of the world of sports, stays up to date with pop culture, and has a valued opinion on television and film. But that isn’t what everyone wants to be and it’s not what everyone should be. Sports and popular culture are defined by all of us and whatever way we engage in fandom. Whatever type of fan you wish to be, your opportunities are there for the taking. When anyone is allowed to spout their opinions 140 characters at a time and soccer played in foreign countries can be seen about as easily as hockey, when movies and music are easily accessible, and when a young man can try to become the next Bill Simmons on a personal blog, the opportunities and responsibilities of the fan are not something to be taken lightly. You have been given a remarkable turn. Don’t waste it. Here are 100 ways to avoid doing so, arranged in no particular order, varying greatly in theme, importance, and relevance to sports.
1. Read this entire list. You never know what amazing words of wisdom, suggested Youtube videos, or hilarious references you might find. And hey, no one ever said you had to read it in one go.
2. Get your social media under control.
3. Joining bandwagons is fine, but be prepared to take the criticism that goes along with your bandwagon’s failure. Once you join one, stay with it.
4. Don’t be afraid of messing up names or being incorrect when talking sports. Some people struggle to remember names and statistics. Charles Barkley called Tony Allen “Tony Smith” twice in a row. It happens. However,
5. Don’t talk like you know what you’re saying unless you do. Sure, speak with confidence, but don’t try to sound like an expert if you aren’t one.
6. Listen to and accept the views of others. (This goes beyond sports).
7. However, if their view is just plain wrong, call them out. You don’t have to nod and shrug your shoulders after everything someone says. Correct them in a kind and thoughtful way. The world would be better if people who talk non-sense were made aware that they talk non-sense.
8. Play some non-shooting non-sports video games. RTS, RPG, Sim, and third person games all have lots to offer. Mix it up. I would never recommend becoming a gamer, but if you are, there are better ways to waste your time, because
9. You need to take it easy with Call of Duty. It’s a great franchise, but think of all the other, more varied games you could be playing instead.
10. Be honest. Tell people the truth.
11. Come up with your own opinions. Take an objective look at your political views. Understand why you hold your religious beliefs. Don’t let Skip and Stephen A. dictate your sports opinions.
12. Don’t feel the need to be unique. That’s not to say you should conform, but don’t be a hipster. There’s nothing wrong with being similar to other people.
13. Don’t be an emulator. Just because your idol does or says this or that doesn’t mean you have to.
14. Take the stickers off your snapback. Maybe I’m in the minority here (like that never happens). Just take the stickers off.
15. Find a favorite soccer team. I had a terrific first season of EPL fandom. Soccer rocks, and if you’re a sports fan I think you should look into this.
16. Answer the tough questions.
17. Careful when dealing absolutes. You sith.
18. And be careful with qualifiers. “Definitely one of the best by far” means nothing.
19. Watch women respectfully. This goes for women viewing/desiring men too, but I focus on women because I’m a man and it’s a more prevalent and visible issue in our culture. There is nothing totally wrong, disrespectful, or dangerous about girl-watching. However, it can be all of those things. The sports world and sports writing has kind of becoming overrun with the culture of ogling, and that’s something I would like to stand against. Many sports sites have links to lists of women. Gregg Easterbrook handles this topic well. His weekly novella called “Tuesday Morning Quarterback”, almost always includes a few pictures of NFL cheerleaders. And that’s about it. There is no endlessly scrollable collection of scantily-clad women. A woman’s looks can be admired without explicit imagery or references to sex. These days I’ve got a TV crush on the young woman from the Samsung Galaxy S4 “Grad Photo” commercial. And that’s it. I see her for about five seconds, think, “That’s a pretty girl” and then I move on. If you melt in your chair every time Faith Hill introduces Sunday Night Football that’s fine, but your admiration shouldn’t go further than that. Men are not sexist or objectifying women by admiring their looks, googling the name of a woman from a commercial (I had to know that Stephanie Garcia was the name of the girl from the Guinness Black Lager commercial), or discussing levels of hotness with their buddies. But so often, in fact most of the time, that admiration becomes something worse. Something evil. Listen to “Beautiful” by Derek Minor (f.k.a. PRo) and “Covenant Eyes” by Trip Lee
20. Listen to old Kanye. The College Dropout is one of the greatest albums of the last 15 years. If I could only have five albums to listen to, that would be one of them. I did an entire Saturday List once listing his 25 best songs. So if you want to acquaint yourself with one of the most influential entertainers alive, start with Dropout and some Late Registration. Knowing about “Ima let you finish”, Kim Kardashian, and all his new vile lyrics before listening to old Kanye is like seeing Revenge of the Sith before Phantom Menace. After seeing evil Anakin mess everything up, you go back and see that he was once just a pretty regular kid with extraordinary gifts.
21. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
22. Don’t snapchat.
23. Don’t get frustrated with golf. The inventors of the game made it the most frustrating sport for amateurs on purpose in order to make people keep paying ridiculous sums of money in course memberships and gear.
24. But if it’s a nice day think about going golfing.
25. Don’t be that guy in pick up basketball who shoots bad shots, doesn’t play defense, doesn’t box out, and doesn’t hustle. If you can’t shoot but play really hard on defense and rebound I’ll still take you on my team any day.
26. Celebrate more after a teammate does something well than when you do something well.
27. Be selective in your movie viewing choices. Some people manage to watch just about every movie that’s been in theaters, but almost no one has that much time. If you want to be able to intelligently discuss film (or at least pretend to) it is important to choose wisely how you will use the 90-150 minutes required by the film you choose.
28. Watch sports documentaries. The 30 for 30 films are, for the most part, outstanding. Don’t miss Straight Outta L.A., Once Brothers, Bo Knows, The U, and Winning Time. There are also lots of outstanding sports documentaries outside of ESPN’s series. Magic and Bird: A Courtship of Rivals, Catching Hell, Hoop Dreams, and More Than a Game are all worth seeing. Sports documentaries are generally better than Hollywood sports movies.
29. Maybe the exception is fight movies. I wrote an entire post on this once. The best sports movies of all-time, and in a few cases, some of the best movies of any genre of all-time, are boxing/fighting movies.
30. “Use quotes from film and television to make people laugh and quotes from literature and history to make people think.” -The SneakyGoodSportsGuy
31. Don’t overuse new expressions. New words and phrases always enter the lexicon at large but are eventually exhausted and lose their value. Move on once middle schoolers start using your expression. Or come up with one on your own.
32. Remember that you are not a 6’8 African-American small forward from Compton. Unless you happen to be, then by all means ball hard my friend.
33. Erring on the side of negativity is a mistake in most fields. Being wise and measured in sports commentating is important, but calling out players/coaches/teams can turn into a real problem. Some guys make it big by being super critical (Jim Rome) but for most of us, there are better ways to go about formulating opinions. Let that neutral jing flow sometime.
34. Listen to U2.
35. I’m highly skeptical of most of the rappers on your ipod.
36. PC > Mac
37. Respect legends, but don’t be afraid to suggest comparisons.
38. Don’t select a quarterback in the first round of your fantasy football draft.
39. Most animated movies are better than most non-animated movies.
40. Take a look at your wardrobe: is it socially acceptable? Is it inoffensive? Are you comfortable in it? Then go for it. A fairly explicit verse from Kid Cudi’s “Up Up and Away” sums this up.
41. Try to gain an appreciation for the NBA.
43. Play the background.
44. Turn up the difficulty on your sports video game. You’ve led the league in passing yards or scoring enough times.
45. When you choose that favorite soccer team, I advise going English Premier League. That league is going to be on television much more than the other three big leagues, even if the Bundesliga is arguably the strongest league right now.
46. Don’t become a Manchester United fan.
47. Think outside the box with jerseys, but play it safe. For a few months those guys with Knicks Jeremy Lin jerseys were pretty cool, but they should have known he wouldn’t stay in New York. HOWEVER, that jersey will be much more desirable in a few years as it becomes a cool classic jersey. So when buying a new jersey, take into account the player, the team, the style, and the chances that the player stays with that team.
48. Hats and jerseys often get better with age. I went through some of my old hats recently and found classics from the Mavericks, Seahawks, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (shouldn’t they have always been the Manta Rays?).
49. Can’t go wrong with black jerseys, provided that the team of the jersey does at some time wear black. Otherwise it doesn’t really make sense.
50. Soccer jerseys are cool.
51. Basketball jerseys that look like soccer jerseys (Warriors) are not.
52. Baseball is dying. Time to decide if you’re moving on or if you’ll fight to keep it as one of the most popular sports in the United States.
53. Personally, I struggle to watch much baseball. There just isn’t the time, particularly if other sports are on television as well (and by “other sports” I mostly mean basketball). I envy people who watch most of the games their favorite local team plays. There’s this interesting dynamic where fans can get a close understanding of each player and their tendencies as they watch them pitch or bat hundreds of times. There’s also the comfort of knowing that if your team loses, the season is so long that there is plenty of time to recover. Then again, think of how many one game playoffs there have been recently…. every game does matter.
54. In sum, following baseball via boxscore is a pretty sensible route.
55. Trust me though, baseball isn’t going to be America’s pastime again. It’s going to get closer and closer to hockey, with loyal local fan bases but minimal national attention. The only thing that could save it is if football had a sudden, cataclysmic downfall in wake of further head injury revelations or incidents.
56. Football is the most popular sport in this nation, with the NFL and college football being the two most popular “leagues”. Yet it is a highly dangerous game played in spite of the inherent risks. It is enjoyed by sports novices, despite being one of the most complicated games (schematically). I have lost a lot of the enjoyment I once got from the NFL. I’m sure it’s partially due to the fact that Peyton Manning’s departure from Indianapolis caused me to no longer have a team that I was 100% invested in. It also has to do with the inescapable coverage of NFL news, the dangers of the game, and the fact that I have a tendency to resist when something is this popular.
57. Seriously though, do you really want your sports headlines to consists of Mark Sanchez’s GQ cover shoot, Tim Tebow’s next shirtless picture, RG3’s unintentional phoniness, Rex Ryan’s tattoos that would give Freud pleasant dreams, and word on the most recent arrest of a troubled player?
58. Howard Shore’s Oscar-winning score for The Lord of the Rings is about as perfect as instrumental music can be.
59. Mozart, Bach, Clementi, Kabalevsky, Debussy, Kuhlau, Desplat.
60. Back to the NFL, the Nike Football “Leave Nothing” commercials (one of them featured LaDainian Tomlinson and Troy Polamalu, the other Shawne Merriman and Steven Jackson) are amazing enough to get me hyped about the NFL when I’m feeling pessimistic about the league.
61. Sam Cassell is Smeagol.
62. 2 Chainz (by the way never listen to him. Ever.) is Jar Jar Binks. Sorry for the insult, Jar Jar.
63. The Office was just as good post-Steve Carrell as it was during the Michael Scott era.
64. Back to 60, take critical approach to commercials. This is one of the few areas of media in which I’m very strict. If a company wants to pay millions of dollars to produce and air a commercial and take up thirty seconds of my day in order to convince me to buy something, they had best do a fine job.
65. LeBron continues to make a case for “greatest all-around basketball player ever”. Accept that Michael Jordan is the greatest, Bill Russell is the most underrated, and LeBron is the most skilled.
66. There are 66 books that you should familiarize yourself with called The Bible. Okay, well, you could probably do without laws about sacrificing livestock, erotic Hebrew literature, and measurements of temples, but still.
67. Reading these things called books is good for you.
68. However, the value placed on reading seems to have become a raisin in the sun. Every few years a series of books sweeps the nation as people rush to Barnes and Noble with great expectations, but often times these are crap. Read good books. Just try it. The sun also rises for those who fall asleep reading a great book. There are many beloved novels worth reading.
69. “Science is a magnificent force, but it is not a teacher of morals.” William Jennings Bryan
70. Tony Dungy (a great coach and better man) teaches that it is possible to be demanding without being demeaning. Unfortunately Mike Rice never heard this, or if he did he decided to completely disregard it. It stuns me how many bad coaches there are out there at all levels. Incompetency is one thing; abusing the position of power and mentorship that is coaching is something else that is entirely infuriating. A coach, especially in high school and college, has a responsibility to mentor and care for their players. They can be like a father. Personally, I’m lost as to why yelling is such an oft-used tool of coaching. That’s not going to get the best from your players. Niccolo Machiavelli said, “it is far safer to be feared than loved if you cannot be both.” I buy that if you’re leading a nation of people, such as a city state in Renaissance Italy. But it is far better to be loved in coaching. If players love their coach, they will give their best effort and reach their potential because they don’t want to fail the coach they love so much. Why do you think King Henry the Fifth’s men followed him into battle? Why were they so proud to be part of the few, that happy few? They loved their king and country. They did not fear the punishment for deserting. In fact, there was no punishment. They were free to go. But they loved their king so much they stood and fought even though they knew they would probably be killed. If I loved my coach and my teammates, I would dive into the stands for a loose ball, box out on every shot, and play as well as I could every game. Coaching is a responsibility that so many men and women have failed. It can be done with love, grace, caring, and understanding.
71. Back to books, reading is appreciated among the cool sports journalists. Reali dishes out points on Around the Horn for literary references.
72. Skip and Stephen A. are a good way to waste the beginning of the day. That being said, I like First Take, when taken in moderation.
73. Erin Andrews > Jen Brown
74. Our words have been taken from us. Whether or not saying “no homo” is worthy of a 75k fine is one thing, but bleeping out “homo” when “showing” the viewers of ESPN what Hibbert said is plain madness. So is calling it “anti-gay” language. He made a mistake and said something he should not have said, but that doesn’t mean the word “homo” should be looked at as a taboo. This strange censorship is extended to other words, as “ass” is bleeped but “damn” and “hell” are not. Kobe and Joakim Noah received hefty fines for saying “faggot” on the court but the cornucopia filled with “nigga” and “f–k” set out on the court every night is ignored. Let’s think more closely about what words are allowed and which are not.
75. It’s kind of like people who had an issue with the repeated uses of “nigger” in Django Unchained. If you watched that film and THAT is what you want to talk about, we have an issue. Because 1. People in antebellum America said that, 2. it was used to get a point across (not to offend) and 3. there was a crap load of stuff more important in that outstanding and disturbing film.
76. I don’t appreciate the language, but Roy Hibbert is correct when saying that the media sometimes get things wrong (like award voting) because they don’t watch the games. And it’s true. So don’t you do that and I’ll try not to do that either. Commenting on games not seen is risky and it leads to 7’2 Hoyas getting mad at you.
77. And you shouldn’t feel offended if that 7’2 Hoya calls you out for not knowing what you’re talking about.
78. Are you really “just saying”?
79. Nickelodeon’s television series Avatar: The Last Airbender is twice as good as James Cameron’s film Avatar and there is nothing you can do about it. I just watched the final battle between Zuko and Azula again and got ridiculous chills.
80.Race is a much bigger problem in America and American sports than you may think. I have been identified by more than one person as the blackest white person they know, and I make the extra effort to be conscious and respectful of racial issues. And I’m racist. I can’t help it. I have what 99% of people have: a subconscious predisposition concerning race. If even I’m racist, then the millions of people who don’t like rap music, Langston Hughes, and a mix of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois are much more bigoted than most will admit. America and American sports have a race problem, and at the risk of generalizing and not sufficiently explaining myself, I won’t go any further with this topic. Just think about it. Articles may arise, especially with RG3’s rise to prominence.
81. Rob Parker should have never been fired.
82. And Dana Jacobson should have been fired.
83. Back to avatars, how could M. Night Shyamalan (who has continued his epic downfall from Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs after failing with a movie starring Will Smith) think he could possibly make a movie that would do the series of Avatar: The Last Airbender justice? Although the better question is: how did he mess up The Last Airbender so badly? Prince Zuko is so well written that a fair translation to film with a competent actor would have been show-stealing. His uncle Iroh is cash money. Saka could provide humor, Katara could be hot, and the martial arts of the series, with the right CG, would be very entertaining. It’s a shame that Shyamalan turned an outstanding series that was good enough to spawn a subsequent series (Legend of Korra) into a film that garnered 6% on Rotten Tomatoes.
84. Choose your television shows wisely. There are a lot of terrible television shows on these days, and many of them are not only terrible, but morally repugnant. Just as with movies, think about how you want to best use the time you invest wasting away in front of a screen. That’s why I mostly watch sports and sports related shows, but I do a bit of non-sports TV-watching as well, including Duck Dynasty, Swamp People, The Simpsons, and Top Shot (most of which I watch with my family). I’m tentatively looking forward to the quasi-return of 24, even though each season after the terrific fifth one steadily declined. I’m thinking about watching Breaking Bad and/or The Wire this summer.
85. Watch The Simpsons rather than Family Guy. It will dramatically decrease your “I didn’t need to see/hear that” factor.
86. Back to airbenders kung fu/wushu movies and martial arts in general are cool and you can go kick rocks if you don’t think so. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Fearless, Hero, 13 Assassins, The Forbidden Kingdom, etc. etc. Everybody loves kung fu fighting.
87. The King’s Speech deserved to win Best Picture. Don’t listen to this nonsense that says The Social Network was better. Not that the Academy always gets it right, but that time they did, contrary to what many aspiring movie critics will tell you.
88. Consider how much you really want to know about athletes. Are you comfortable knowing all the dark things about the sports industry? Or would you rather let them be players on a field of play that disappear after the game ends?
89. Considering that there is now an NBA Style App, I think viewers in general want more personal and intrusive coverage of the lives of athletes.
90. Han shoots first.
91. “This game has always been, and will always be, about buckets.”
92. Cool kids play strategy board games on occasion. Whether or not this extends to cool adults I’m not yet sure. I’ll let you know.
93. Fantasy football is the best fantasy sport.
94. Justin Bieber is our enemy.
95. Maybe after reading this ridiculous list you’ll never want to read my work again.
96. But if you have read this far chances are you don’t hate it that much.
97. So I think you should keep following my work.
98. Don’t Waste Your Life.
99. Ball hard.
100. Enjoy your turn.
Here endeth the countdown, consisting of John Wall, Tim Tebow, Carmelo Anthony, Skateboarding, Derrick Rose, Wayne Rooney, The Exiles, Cam Newton, Michael Vick, and YOU. Finally. Like, comment, subscribe/follow, post to Facebook and Twitter, email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading!
Soli Deo Gloria