June 12, 2007

Spectator Sports Cause Shocking Rise in Obesity?

Really? Are professional sports in some way responsible for the population's increasing problem with excess weight?

Nah. Well, who knows. It's at least as good a theory as blaming microwave ovens. (Or workplace vending machines. Or PBS, Paris Hilton, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, or leg warmers. But it sure is fun to blame someone, isn't it?)

Actually Crabby just feels like picking on spectator sports today, so she will. She went to a baseball game over the weekend, so she's especially eager to make fun of that sport. (She actually had a great time, what with the sun and the snacks and the Anchor Steam). But towards the end of the post, Crabby will even go out on a limb and proclaim Baseball a Stupid Sport! Be sure to tell all your friends to come here and see for themselves what a complete jerk she is.

But first, a quick list of reasons why spectator sports, particularly viewed at home on TV, are Bad For You:

They are generally viewed in a seated position, and they go on forever. Think about it: televised sporting events are about three times as long as normal TV shows. Even without the pre-game this and the post-game that. And true sports fans always need to see a pre-game this or a post-game that.

Worse, since you have to watch games in real time, you're sitting through all the commercials. (Which tend to feature beer and junk food). If you watch House or Gray's Anatomy, for instance, you Tivo it or whatever and you don't even know what crap they might be advertising. But during a ball game, you end up hearing about every damn topping Domino's decides to dump on their pizzas that week.

But here's the most insidious thing about spectator sports: the way they trick the spectators into thinking they've gotten exercise themselves.

Ever seen a total sports fan watch a game? They go through all the agony and the triumph, riding the same roller-coaster of endorphins that the actual players do--but they do it all sprawled on the couch with a big bag of Doritos in their laps.

When it's over, do they jump up and go out for a run or to play a little game of football or basketball or baseball themselves? Your actual mileage may vary, but from what I've observed: they do not. Sure, a nice big hunk of the day is gone, but they've helped their team win! (Or almost win!) They're tired now. They need a nap.

And now, as promised, Crabby's going to complain even more about Baseball, a game that perplexes her. The thing she finds most confusing is why all the smart, thoughtful, otherwise admirable people she knows seem to find it so enchanting.

It's designed, on purpose, to be boring! Hardly anything ever happens!

For one, the season consists of seven hundred thousand games, plus the playoffs, so no individual game actually counts until the very end.

And in what other sport do the participants get to delay the game whenever they feel like it, with no penalty, just 'cause they don't feel quite "ready?" They need to think about it. They need more practice swings. Batters finally get all crouched and ready and then they step out of the box again to scratch their noses and take even more practice swings. Pitchers stare and swivel around to second base. They adjust their crotches and stare some more. Ready yet? Ah... no. Not quite yet.

Sometimes when the pitcher's screwing up there's even a little tea-party on the mound. Why on earth is this allowed? The pitcher and the catcher and maybe a baseman or two all decide to have a conference. What could these guys possibly need to say to the pitcher besides: "could you please stop walking people and pitch a few f*cking strikes instead?" But they have their little committee meetings anyway, and the fans all just sit there and wait. And have another hot dog or a few more tortilla chips.

Okay, to be fair, sometimes there's action. An occasional home run. Watch the ball... it's going over the fence... Yep, there it goes. It's gone.

And then every now and then a pitcher will hit a batter "accidentally" in a way the boys in the dugout take exception to. This is indeed exciting. Suddenly, everyone comes charging out and they're all hitting each other! (Though generally not a fan of violence, Crabby actually sort of enjoys the sight of overpaid professional athletes mixing it up. She's not proud of this, but its true). Unfortunately, this hardly ever happens.

Crabby really, really doesn't get why people are so enthusiastic about baseball. She officially declares Baseball a Really Stupid Sport.

(Crabby, ducking hurled objects, makes her exit quickly, stage left).


  1. I'm not much of a basefall fan either :) But I wouldn't blame it for the growing weight problem. (It's that darn mircowave - really it is - honest!) LOL

  2. I loathe baseball. The only thing more boring is cricket, try that one sometime.

  3. I used to enjoy watching the World Series, but the 1994 strike put me right off.
    You're right, though, very little happens in a game and it seems to me a game only counts as half a game in the points total.
    I don't think sports is responsible for obesity, but I do think it provides the format for it. Plenty of junk food adverts and it's good to have a snack while watching someone else exercise, or in the case of baseball, whine and take steriods.

    And if I may, beer is way better for you than soft drinks. Yes, it alcohol and that's not good, but it's hops, grain, and water vs. sugar, sugar, and multisyllabic thingies that do not belong in our bodies, and water. De-alcholized beer is a good compromise. JMO. YMMV.

  4. De-alcoholized. Yeeps. I even checked.

  5. I'm with you on those games lasting way too long. You can easily waste half a day watching a game and have nothing at all to show for it.

    If you go to the game, you're easily out a C-spot or more. If you watch at home, you've saved your money but done nothing for either yourself or your beloved team. They can't hear you cheering at the TV. They'll win or lose no matter what you do, so you might as well just tune in for the last half hour or better yet, read it the next day online and catch the highlights on a YouTube video.

    It must be "a guy thing" because watching professional sports is baffling to me. I can get behind the occasional high school or college game, though! :-)

  6. Sports... Yawn! So, dull. I think watching sports can be healthy if it makes people want to play. Like my son loves soccer -- but loves to play it more. But the majority of folks I know who watch sports do just watch.

    Plus it's been proven that major sporting events bring out the violence in already abusive men -- so domestic violence goes up during super bowl and other big events. Although, I've rambled off track because that's a whole other health situation.

  7. Hi Lady Rose! Nah, I'm going with Peggy's theory--it's PBS. Thanks for stopping by!

    Hi Noah, and welcome!
    Okay, I gotta say, cricket looks even worse. But at least in the US it's fairly avoidable. Baseball is everywhere right now. Zzzz...

    Hi Leah,
    I'm totally with you on the merits of beer--especially if it's fresh on tap and something other than a watery American bud or coors or something. I think there are good minerals or something in there. (As long as you can avoid drinking like ten of them, in which case beer is definitely not a health food!)

    Hi bunnygirl!
    Yeah, I'd guess high school or college games would be more about the sport and less about the commercial aspects. Or women's sports--I don't generally like basketball (a whole other subject) but used to go to women's games and they were fun.

    Hi Jennifer--
    Please ramble off any time! It's all good here. And your right, I've read those scary statistics about men going off on their wives, especially after their teams lose. Grrrr.

  8. Baseball is not big in New Zealand. We have softball which to me seems very similar - but that isn't big either. We have rugby union which is enormous and which we're very good at, a fact we like to continually remind the rest of the world of. And netball which we're also pretty good at it although the Aussies beat the pants of us at the last test!

    Most of us, however, don't acutally play these sports but sit on the couch and munch our way through them!

  9. Crabby, Crabby, Crabby. And you other guys, too. Baseball is the chess of major league sports. It's all about the strategy, outwitting the other team, putting the right players on the right base while another carefully chosen player is at bat, and so on. Since a game lasts at least nine innings, much forethought and playing the odds is required.

    That said, I'll admit that I find most spectator sports boring, except the ones I've played, like tennis. And who can beat platform diving? Beautiful bodies performing split-second gymnastics while falling through the air toward a (hopefully) splashless entry.

    Don't forget an important exercise element that goes along with watching a long televised game. You drink all that beer, you have to get up and pee any number of times. If your bathroom is upstairs, why, you might even balance out the calories from the beer you drink. That, and the cheering and yelling, loudly, so the neighbors can hear, at the people on the screen who don't know you're there or that you exist...

  10. I love baseball!
    Haha! Ok, no I don't. I just thought I'd try to be original. It is b-o-o-oring. However,my memories of baseball when I was younger typically involve nice really yummy overpriced hotdogs. Which I still love. (sigh) My life really does revolve around food.

    Baseball also bugs me because I can't think of another pro sport where atheletes can grow a pot belly and chew tobacco...and it's ok.

  11. Hi Dawn!
    Well, rugby seems pretty cool, as spectator sports go. Burly guys bashing each other around has a certain appeal. It seems much tougher than American football, so you Kiwis go right ahead and boast about it.

    Appleton, a nice weekdays surprise!

    Great point about the peeing, and also about the diving. But back on baseball...

    Even conceding your argument that baseball is "the chess of major league sports" I have to point out I'd never sit there and watch three hours of chess either!

    Oh thank goodness Katieo, I thought for a moment you were one of "them," the baseball fans. (Where are they all, btw? I thought I'd annoy more than just poor Appleton by insulting the sport. Virtually everyone I'm friends with or related to loves it! Thought I'd get more argument down here, but perhaps people are just too polite.)

    Anyway, the hot dogs and beer are the only point of baseball that I can see. And your right, too, about the encouragement of bellies and tobacco spitting. Weird.

  12. Ohhh, I totally hear you Crabby. I had an ex boyfriend who was a die hard Red Sox fan and he INSISTED I watch all the games with him and attend all the AA tesm games he went to. I wanted to shoot myself it was so boring. I want to PLAY sports, not watch them!!

    (makes her exit following Crabby, stage left) ~__^

  13. TV and computers and yes even reading can contribute to obesity IF they are done at the experience of activity. TV...whether sports or soap operas or whatever can have a way of sucking you off your feet onto the couch with a bag of chip and a pepsi...before you know it, it's three hours later.

    Personally, I don't like watching sports. IMO, sports are for playing, not watching. But if I am not careful, TV can suck me in.

  14. Hi Sera,
    I'm with you, playing is better than watching. (And we seem to be strangely safe from hurled objects--guess all the baseball fans were busy watching a game or something!)

    Hi half man!
    Yes, tv is a time suck, as is, um, the internet. (Don't tell our blog readers though!)

  15. hi crabby

    I'm going to have to disagree with all of you. As an avid baseball fan, I enjoy watching the games, even the boring part. While I agree with the assessment that baseball is a sport of strategy, I believe it is more than that. Baseball is a game of numbers. If you really look at it, every aspect of baseball has a statistic attached to it, from batting average to fielding percentage. I guess if you really want to appreciate baseball, you also have to appreciate the innumerable statistics with it.

    Statistics, however, mean nothing if you can't appreciate the skill involved in playing the game. I may be a bit biased, but I find that hitting a spherical ball traveling of upwards of 90 mph with a cylindrical bat is incredibly difficult. It requires a lot of time and hand/eye coordination. Fielding those ball is also rather difficult, as the balls usually go fast off the bat. It requires quick hands and a strong throwing arm.

    Again, appreciation for baseball comes from the appreciation of the numbers and the skill involved. I also think that baseball athletes are some of the elite in the sports world. Baseball may not require the same amount of endurance as some other sports, leading many to believe they are fat, when they are actually very fit. Baseball requires a different kind of endurance, such as pitchers throwing 100+ pitches into a relatively small strike zone.

    I have respect for most of the players in MLB. It generally takes a long time to get through the farm system to get the majors, so they've earned their spot. And most of the time, a player's position is replaceable by someone in the minors, so ball players are forced to constantly battle for their own positions. Baseball and its fans have little patience for slumping players.

    I'll admit, the pace is a bit slow, but if you can get into it, you may be able to understand why baseball is America's pastime. As for lazy fans, it's not baseball's fault that they don't get off their asses before or after the games. And games are usually on in the evenings. What are they doing the rest of the day?

    Anyway, I know this is kind of long, but I'm sorry to see a sport that I love and have played be dissed like this. I have respect for the game and the players, and I hope that you can at least respect them.


  16. hi Stewie!
    I was wondering where all the baseball fans were. And true to my general impression, you seem to be a thoughtful and intelligent bunch. Thanks for taking the time to comment--lots of good stuff in there.

    Just to clarify: I respect the players as much as I respect anyone who does a difficult job well. I've got nothing against the players.

    I just don't share the reverence with which our culture seems to view baseball. It's just a game. (And to me, sort of a boring one). Yet we act as if these guys are doing something of huge worth and importance to society. I think your average elementary school teacher is far more heroic but we pay no attention to them.

    Anyway, glad you have a sport you really enjoy, and thanks for stopping by!

  17. Cushioned furniture has also been linked to obesity. Which is why I sit on a bed of nails.

  18. Hockey, there's the ticket! Then you get to see those overpaid fucks fighting MUCH more than in baseball!

    (I actually think all sports are incalculably boring. Except hockey in person, and even then the stretches between good fights seem interminable.)


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