For many people, watching a recorded sporting event is a devalued experience. I am not one of those people.
I get the arguments against it -- that something's missing when it's not live, that it diminishes the communal aspect of fandom, that there's an excitement in seeing a story unfold in real time -- but I don't get how that's enough to make someone look up the score on their phone.
For me, nothing trumps watching the game. Nothing. I follow my teams because I love watching them play. I love everything about it. I love the rush, the ebbs and flows, the subtle sequences that aren't flashy enough for SportsCenter. And with the advent of DVR and replay apps, there's no reason to sacrifice.
Why does it matter if everyone else already knows what happened? I don't. It's live for me. The only difference is that I get to run through the commercials. I'm even delusional enough to think my superstitions can still affect the outcome.
Of course, enjoying a recorded sporting event as if it's live is dependent on not finding out who won, and not finding out who won is dependent on me closing myself off to the rest of the world. Which raises an important question:
What am I missing when I'm gone?
In a connected world, I'm decidedly disconnected. This is not by accident. I love my cell phone, but I'm not constantly checking my email or updating my social media accounts. If I'm in the middle of something, all rings and notifications can wait.
When I got married last spring, my friends went easy on me during their rehearsal dinner speeches. But if they hadn't, I'd guess that one thing that drives them crazy about me is my lack of availability. I seldom answer calls, and my text response speed lags behind acceptable rates. When I've gone MIA for too long, a couple guys now use my wife as an intermediary to get me to pick up the phone.
It's not that I'm antisocial. OK, it kind of is, but there's something more to it that's equally unhealthy. Whereas most people recognize texts, emails and calls for exactly what they are -- a form of communication -- I view them on some level as a threat. You know that anxiety you feel when you're waiting on important news, and the bearer of that news' number appears on caller ID? That's how I feel nearly all the time.
What's waiting on the other side of this click? Is there bad news? Will I get suckered into doing something I don't want to do? Am I going to feel rejected, or embarrassed, or foolish?
It's the fear of the unknown, and my mind gravitates to the worst-case scenario. And instead of accepting these "challenges" (and likely discovering somebody was just sharing an ESPN article), I avoid them until I'm ready to deal. What I don't know can't hurt or burden me.
This behavior is as ridiculous as it is rude. It's led me to leave friends hanging, and it's made me miss everything from out-of-town visitors to birthdays. Reminder emails are worthless if you don't open them.
I'm trying to fix this, even going as far as scheduling email-checking time into my morning routine. But it's a process. At their core, these communications are nothing more than pieces of information -- information I need to know in order to behave like a functional member of society. Ignorance might be bliss, but it's still ignorance.
With real-time reactions at every turn, not finding out a score is as difficult as ever. It used to be I only took on this challenge out of necessity, when I had a conflicting obligation. Out of the seclusion of my house, knowing the info I didn't want to know could be around the next corner, I developed a repertoire of avoidance tactics, like removing my glasses while walking past a restaurant TV.
Nowadays, with the convenience of DVR, I rarely watch anything live. There's no reason to. And because I don't want sports to infringe on my marriage more than it already does, I hang out with my wife and watch my games when she goes to bed.
The downside to this is that maintaining a sterile environment means maintaining a communication quarantine until I can hit Play. No emails, no phone calls, no texts. That's the discipline. One mistake and the experience I've been looking forward to is lost. Nothing gets in so I find nothing out.
A few basketball seasons ago, the Texas Longhorns were playing one of their biggest games of the year while I was in Chicago for my niece's birthday. Scattered addresses mean my family's seldom all together, making the time we do have with each other that much more valuable. I didn't want to miss any of it -- not of family time, and not of the game.
When I finished watching the recording a little after 1 a.m., I checked my phone for the first time since going into lockdown 11 hours earlier. Typically these blackouts leave little to catch up on. I'm not that important. Which is why I was thrown off by the following message from one of my closest friends:
Standing in the dark, out of breath from my victorious Moonwalking (Texas 75, Kansas State 64), I had more questions than answers. How had it happened? Was she surprised by it? How did her fiance propose? And why was she telling me this through text? Weren't we closer than that? Would she make me a bridesmaid as restitution? (She did.)
I was thrilled for her, but I was also a little empty, because we couldn't share the moment. Not then, anyway. It was the middle of the night. I'd get details later, and we'd celebrate going forward, but I'd missed the opportunity to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
And that's the problem. That's the price you pay for trying to control your intake of life. The world works on its own whims without regard for who is ready and who is not, and the more you try to dictate its pace, the more you risk regret. Unlike Big 12 basketball, certain things aren't the same on tape-delay.