I didn't watch the Super Bowl. Neither did I watch the World Series last summer. In fact, I don't actually watch a lot of professional sports, and it's not just because I don't have cable. It's mainly because I simply don't care. I know. Cue the shocked faces. A sportswriter who doesn't watch sports? Is that possible? Acceptable? Although I owe no one an explanation, I'm offering it nonetheless since I know I'm not alone.
The fact that I am not tuned in on a regular basis to big games, especially those involving New England's teams, really grinds the gears of some people. It's as if I'm committing some kind of journalistic blasphemy. Except, I'm not. I'm choosing my truth over that of other people's.
There is an assumption people make about me based on my job – that I must be a rabid sports fan, constantly following every team, game, and athlete around. While that might be true for many sportswriters, it's not for me. I'm not actually a big fan of pro sports, and watch them only on occasion, typically when I'm visiting my folks and my dad has a game on.
When it comes to sports, my heart belongs to the athletes and teams that play not for the money, but for the sheer love of playing a game. That can't be said in pro sports as convincingly as it can in high school or youth sports. Where the pros have their sights set on negotiating a more lucrative contract and all manner of endorsement deals, student athletes have their sights set on playing the game. They might dream of a chance to play for their favorite team, or for any pro outlet, but at the high school level especially, student athletes are all about getting better and getting the W.
Their work ethic isn't based on earning another million dollars, but instead is based on earning a varsity letter and possibly a scholarship, as the team strives toward earning a spot in the playoffs, if not winning a championship. That's a work ethic I can get behind.
Although there are challenges inherent in high school athletics, they're nowhere near as monumental as the controversies woven into the fabric of so many professional sports. From domestic violence to doping to racism and beyond, pro sports is a minefield of contentious issues. Not to mention my belief that the salaries of pro athletes are out of hand, and that gratitude is a sorely lacking aspect in that regard.
With the possible exception of Olympians who've been training for their moment of competition since childhood, it is my firm opinion that pro sports is simply another form of televised entertainment, and I can think of far better ways to spend my money than feeding the beast.
Are there professional athletes using their ridiculous salaries for good? Absolutely. Are there sports I will watch? Yes. I enjoy taking in a Red Sox game with my dad whenever possible, and have enjoyed seeing the Bruins, Celtics, Yankees and Mets play in the past. But those events were less about the teams playing than the company I was keeping, and truthfully with the cost of tickets today I'd rather go camping and put the focus on the high school teams I cover.
The truth is, I care more that a student athlete I've had the privilege of getting to know during my time along the sidelines received a sports scholarship to their top choice school than I do when a famous athlete hit (another) homer, won (another) game, or received (another) accolade.
The fact that said student likely won't advance their sports career farther than the college team he or she is playing for doesn't make them less of an athlete, worthy of respect. The fact that I am a reporter that holds high school sports in higher esteem than the pros doesn't make me less of a sportswriter. I'll see you on the sidelines.