Jaffe: Sports are always a welcome distraction

May 5, 2011, 1:45 a.m.

It was 1 a.m. a couple days ago and I was Gchatting with my friend when I realized something crazy.

I hadn’t watched SportsCenter all day. I hadn’t watched a single minute of either NBA game, despite being just a matter of feet from a television. Heck, I hadn’t even seen a single highlight of Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter, despite having watched the last two innings on GameCast (I mean, I was definitely paying attention in that review session…)

While most of you can probably last 24 hours without sports highlights, I’m not built the same way. You might as well ask me to go 24 hours without oxygen or fruit snacks (the two essentials of life as far as I can tell). In the past year, I’ve probably had at least twice as many days where I watched SportsCenter five times as days where I was sports-free. And I like it that way.

As I looked back on my SportsCenter-less Tuesday, it struck me what a lousy day I’d been having. I had spent a good part of the day doing homework (Seriously? Homework? At Stanford?) and I just generally felt miserable. And it hit me. These are the times where sports really come through for me.

I have written before on how deep the pain of being a sports fan can get. (As I’m writing this, my Angels found a way not to score despite having the bases loaded and one out–as if I really needed a reminder.) But yet, there are still billions of us out there, so sports must be doing something good. And one of the biggest benefits sports can have is distracting us from the rest of our lives. When discussing this, many people do so in the context of September 11th or other global conflicts, and these are certainly valid points. But for Average Joe, distractions are needed much more often and for much less important reasons.

And really, what’s a better distraction than getting a full day’s sports highlights in an hour? Of course, some days you might need a distraction from the sports world itself, but in most cases, a fight with a friend, relationship issues, job problems, financial trouble and whatever else has made your day suck can be temporarily relieved by diving catches, alley-oops and ridiculous home run calls.

One of the great things about sports is that no matter what else is happening in your life, the sports world keeps going. While you’re waiting to hear back from that potential employer, you can still watch an entire playoff series take place. When you get sick and can’t do anything fun for days, you’ve got dozens of sporting events to help you pass the time. When you wake up in the morning and can’t believe you have to deal with what happened the day before, at least the sports world will be new today.

And you don’t even need to be unhappy to get fresh sports all the time. When you have better things to do than watch sports (I hear that’s a possibility, but I’m still looking into the validity of these claims), you can still come back and see what happened. That’s the beauty of sports–you can be out on a hot date or alone in your room with three problem sets, but Andre Ethier will still get a hit (when he’s healthy, of course). The sports world never stops.

Of course, some things never seem to change. Day 82 of the NFL lockout probably won’t give us a whole lot more insight than Day 81, and who knows when the steroid debate will ever finish.

But when the front pages of ESPN.com and Yahoo Sports have no mention of Liriano less than 24 hours after his no-hitter, you know the sports world can move on quickly.

No, sports cannot solve all of life’s problems. But as I sat down to catch the last few highlights of the 1 a.m. SportsCenter, for the first time all day, I was at ease.


Jacob Jaffe is investigating his financial options in fruit-snack futures. Lend him some candy capital at jwjaffe “at” stanford.edu.


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