A friend suggested that I was being a bit melodramatic in using the word “addiction” as a label for my relationship to spectator sports. After all, the habit didn’t have dire consequences such as losing a job or destroying my family. To the contrary, an interest in spectator sports often proves to be beneficial at work where you can bond with coworkers when discussing games and players. And there certainly are families that use spectator sports as a social glue.
All true. And yet for me, there was a darker consequence that I never talked about with anyone. This was the longing for a game fix (or talk related to the game) when there had been a period of no action. Years ago, when the NFL provided games only on Sundays (with rare exceptions such as Thanksgiving), by Friday, I’d find myself looking forward to game day.
I know that I’m not the only person who experienced this phenomenon although I don’t recall ever hearing others talk about it. The league—and its allies in the sports news and talk industry—certainly was aware of the hunger, which they have fed by expanding the number of games per team, from 10 in the early 1940s to 16 now—not counting playoffs. multiplying game days. More important, thanks to TV, the league could multiply the number of game days, first adding Mondays, then Saturdays for playoffs, and most recently Thursdays. People have joked that maybe someday pro football will be available everyday. Don’t bet against it.
Of course, this expansion of product isn’t simply a football issue. In the late 1940s, pro basketball teams played just under 50 games a season. Now it’s up to 82 regular season games. Baseball when from 154 in the 1950s to 162. And by dropping doubleheaders, they increased the number of days baseball was available to spectators.
As with any drug, the impact of the drug tends to wear off, which leads to needing larger quantities or more intense doses or both. The intensity of sports has been increased by visual devices such as instant replay, slow motion, and multiple cameras. And then there’s gambling, which adds a very powerful kick to watching any game.
I’m a week off the stuff. I didn’t get the high of tuning in to the Super Bowl. I miss the excitement of following the exploits of the Golden State Warriors. There won’t be any March Madness for me this year. But feeling clean is compensation enough.