This afternoon as I was leaving work, I glanced at the current material in my "public posting" spot near the entrance to my cube. Posted there is a cartoon by John Trever of the Albuquerque Journal from about a year ago. This cartoon shows a keyboard, and tables all of the "Chicago Sportswriter Hotkeys" regarding the Chicago Cubs. Stuck in the same sheet protector is a page from about six months ago that I took from the "Jump the Shark" calendar, on when the Chicago Cubs jumped the shark. I'm sure that a couple of people have used these to guess that I'm a Chicago Cubs fan. In reality I posted the first since it points out how I sometimes often think about Chicago Sportswriters, and the second is a good example of this in print, albeit not from the Chicago media.
This got me thinking about how since I started living in Chicago fifteen years ago, I have gone from being someone who could tolerate sports and sports discussion, to being someone who cannot stand to be in the room with a football or baseball game, and dreads when conversations turn to the subject of sports. From this I realized that, at least in part, the way sports are talked about in the Chicago media may have caused, or at least contributed to this change.
Growing up in Albuquerque we had the University of New Mexico basketball and football teams, a Triple-A baseball team (the Albuquerque Dukes) and sometimes a minor-league hockey team. But when sports was talked about by the media they talked about everything. The TV news would give the scores for nearly every game played in the state, at least all of the high school varsity games (including 6-man football), college games and the professional games. They would also give scores and highlights from the day's major professional sports games, although they mostly focused on football and baseball games. We would get complete coverage of the WAC in football and basketball, in part to see where UNM was faring in its conference play, but would often get highlights of games involving the top rated NCAA teams as well.
Further, there was less of a unified loyalty to a single team. There were probably a few more Dallas Cowboy or Denver Bronco fans than fans of the other NFL teams, and maybe a few more Dodgers fans (the Dukes were the Dodgers Triple-A farm club). There were a lot of very supportive Lobo (UNM) fans -- including myself, especially when I was a student at UNM.
However, in Chicago it is very different. First of all, your average -- TV or radio -- sports report hardly mentions any teams except for the 5 major professional teams with "Chicago" in their names. Beyond that they will briefly mention some of the big individual sports -- mostly golf. The local college sports, or high school sports, get hardly a mention. Obviously with more local high-school teams that there are, probably, in the entire state of New Mexico, there isn't enough time to give every score, but at least the major games should be mentioned. Worse, often sports-related news gets treated as more important than other things going on in the world: "Fire downtown kills 3 and leaves 200 homeless, but first our lead story: Michael Jordan has a hangnail."
Then there is the nearly universal support for the local major professional teams. The only division is in baseball where there are two teams to support. There are a few transplants to the Chicago area who still support the team from their childhood, but beyond that it seems that everyone supports the same teams.
Both the coverage and the universal support have done a lot to lessen my interest in major sports. I already tended to get bored during games unless I had a distraction -- like playing in the marching band -- or had an emotional interest, usually cheering for the team representing the school I was attending. When the overwhelming information about a limited number of teams and events gets added, I think this pushed me over the edge.
For the most part I can still ignore the sports discussions -- occasionally adding a joking reference that I'm out of the loop: "Baseball, that's the one with the small balls and the bat, right?"
At least baseball season in Chicago is over, basketball season hasn't started and hokey season may not start at all. If all I have to do is ignore the Bears, I think I can pull that off, at least when I'm not visiting with my in-laws.
(OK, you want a bit of irony to this. I still read Tank Macnamara as one of my online comics each morning. Of course sometimes I think that the writers of that strip are just as fed up with some of what goes on in sports as I am)