22 Dec Monday Blog (on Tuesday) – Go, Fiction, Go!
The sports gene is a strong one. It can make you attempt to understand analytics. It can draw hundreds of dollars out of you for parking and hot dogs above the already over inflated price for a ticket. It can turn you in to someone you’re not. I realized this early on in my life as a parent when my youngest daughter asked “is this the team that makes daddy yell?” Yes, that’s the team. Well, one of them.
I had the sports gene implanted at about 8 years old and, in some ways, sports fandom draws out the absolute worst in me. It turns on the animal side of my brain to the point where I’ve secretly rooted for injuries to players because how dare they pick apart our secondary like that. If that guy would just get injured so bad that his leg flew into the stands, we’d have this game in the bag, man.
As a product of age and the fact that every single team I follow sucks with the force of a black hole made of Kardashian sisters, I’m kind of down on sports right now. My interest has waned with a few notable exceptions (eat it, Michigan State!). And, while I’m busy enough to where there’s not a hole in my life because I’m giving up on seasons shortly after they start, there is a bit of an emotional void, some energy that I’m trying to redirect, and I think I’ve found a place for it – long form blockbuster movies.
To answer both your questions, yes, I realize they are very different forms of entertainment and yes, that might be one of the nerdiest things I’ve ever written, but here’s my case for why this seasons stellar crop of blockbuster movies fills the space in my soul where sports used to be:
- They are communal experiences – Think about football for a second. You gather in a big stadium, you know the players, you have a relationship with the coaches, and you sit, surrounded by “your people”. Your life may be very different from the person next to you but you KNOW you have something in common. Everyone is there for the same reason. Same thing with a long form blockbuster movie. When you see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” you know the person sitting next to you has seen the other movies and they have a passing investment in how this one turns out. You know their heart races a little faster when the John Williams score kicks in. At the very least, you know they’re sharing an experience with you. That’s powerful stuff (and, in another rant all together, why going to the theater is an important thing to do).
- It’s baked into our DNA – A glorious little byproduct of our loathsome remake culture is it has strengthened the communal experience in an important way. When you go to a sporting event chances are good that the fans in that setting have a history with the team – they went to games with their parents, they cheered as kids, fandom is, for lack of a more eloquent term, baked into their DNA. I sat next to an older gentleman when I saw “Creed” recently who was damn near sobbing at the end at a particularly powerful moment that brought the past and the present together.
- We enjoy statistics – This is where “nerd” culture comes in. We care whether or not “The Hunger Games” breaks records in the Chinese market. Yes, we know Fantastic 4 bombed, but how bad did it bomb? Robert Downey Jr. made how much for “Captain America: Civil War” (the answer if $40 million plus points on the back end). There are even versions of talk radio shows dedicated to the minutia of movies that feature cross talk and big personalities and the whole bit. We enjoy the specifics of movies beyond what’s on the screen just like sports fans care about recruiting and analytics.
- We have strong opinions on the coaches – The parallels between JJ Abrams taking over the Star Wars franchise and a major coach taking over a new program could not be more stark. There’s speculation, opinions when the announcement is made, more speculation, attention paid to the product before game day, more speculation, breathless previews and you get the idea. Directors and coaches also get praise and blame for a product that has literally hundreds of people working on it whether it’s fair or not.
- Glory awaits – The big reason I don’t miss sports so much right now is blockbuster movies have been really damn good this year. I’ve mentioned “Creed” and “Star Wars” but Marvel continues its unprecedented winning record, the James Bond franchise remains solid and studios seem to understand that quality can lead to bigger returns. Sometimes that means studios are taking chances with franchises and sometimes the pay offs can be amazing. I don’t want to belabor this already belabored point, but take “Creed” as an example. You had a long time winning franchise that had a few missteps, came back to former glory and then hired an upstart new director who took the existing system and updated it for modern audience to glorious result. The story within the story is almost as inspiring as the art itself which…is exactly what sports is about. It’s the stories, the history, the shared experience, the power of the moment that makes for such an amazing experience in both arenas.
Plus, my sports teams really, really suck right now and a guy’s gotta do something.