I watched part of the men’s collegiate basketball national championship last night, pitting the Kansas Jayhawks against the Kentucky Wildcats. Until just a few hours before the game, when a friend reminded me about it, I’d completely forgotten it was happening. On Sunday, the first day of April, the Ronde van Vlaanderen, or the Tour of Flanders, had been waged over the cobblestones and up the bergs in western Belgium. This race was the second of the Monuments, major one-day races that have been going on for a hundred years in Europe. I woke up at 6:00 in the morning to watch and sat in front of my computer monitor until a three-man breakaway hit the finish line after 10:00. It was an exciting race, full of great racing and wild crashes. I was away for the weekend, with a group of friends for a wedding party, and even had some fellow watchers, which was a bit odd since I generally watch alone. Two of my friends even got into the race, watching for the final forty kilometers. Who said watching a guy pedal a bicycle is boring?

I can understand that sentiment though. It might seem repetitive and robotic. But, just like anything that appears simple or mundane at first, there is more than meets the eye. As you gain a better understanding of race tactics and how the course affects the race, then you can watch the pedaling with a sharper eye. In fact, I never thought I’d enjoy riding a bicycle so much and do it so often, nor did I think I’d enjoy watching others race, but I love it. These days I rarely pay much attention to the major U.S. sports, which I grew up loving. Sometimes I wonder what has changed and almost feel guilty, but then I do something like tune in to watch the basketball game and I am immediately reminded of why American sports hold little interest at this point.

Basketball is a fun, exciting sport, involving both the discipline of set plays and an offensive scheme with the freedom of improvisation. The game combines athleticism with endurance, the refined skill of shooting with the sheer instinctual reaction of jumping to grab a rebound. These elements are still there, but as I tried to watch the game, they were lost. They were lost because of television timeouts. They were lost because of the continual timeouts called by each coach during much of the final ten minutes of the game. They were lost because the two coaches, men portrayed as diligent, tireless workers, stomped up and down the sideline of the court, moving their players around with shouts almost like a chess master shifting pieces. The game wasn’t a game, but a highly choreographer plodding affair; when timeouts of one sort or another didn’t interrupt, the constant fouling did. Is this the best the sport has to offer on it’s biggest collegiate night?

American sports, such as basketball and football, have become slow, boring, monotonous affairs, with the flow of play constantly interrupted by something on the court, or more often, off the court. Even when the game gets going, there is a minute long break during which the viewer is blasted with loud, aggressive commercials selling a few different things, namely cell phones, automobiles, fast food, or alcohol. The advertisements are so frequent & obnoxious that it’s impossible for me to enjoy the game. And to add to the problem, the game itself is a slow, overanalyzed, overcoached affair. We’ve lost the play and game aspects of sports in America.

As I tried to endure the final few minutes, which took half an hour, I wondered what the viewing experience does to the audience. I could not help but wonder about the connection between the diluted sport being offered and the vapid existence many Americans plod through on a daily basis. The consume junk food. The consume junk sporting. And in the mean time, they can’t be bother to put down their greasy burger or light beer for a minute, as they punch at their cell phone in a misguided attempt to “connect.” It’s truly stunning to me how many people have been duped by the overload of technology and the promise of a better life. For the majority of people, the connection constant internet involvement and access provide is illusory. People are increasingly isolated, closing themselves in mentally, then compounding this problem by slowly strangling their bodies with unhealthy food.

American sports, like mobile phones, televisions, and computers, are part of a circle that sustains itself by constantly luring people into a snare. People are intellectually unsatisfied and additionally physically unsatisfied because of how they choose to eat. There is nothing healthy about this lifestyle, which seems to attract more viewers every year. Fans are lauded for their love and dedication to a team, but I wonder what American sports gives back to the viewer?

As I sat watching cycling, it made me conscious of what I chose to eat from the breakfast spread of food. I’d just watch extremely healthy, fit guys ride two hundred and fifty-five kilometers in the span of six hours. This would be impossible with the proper diet, the proper fuel. However, to race at the highest levels also requires the proper mentality, the self-belief and confidence to ride through tough stretches of the race or season. Without commercial breaks, the action is uninterrupted. The men are moving advertisements, of course, as happens in all racing, but their kit serves only as a way to pick them out of the pack, for me.

In the course of two days I felt the exhilarating effects of the Ronde van Vlaanderen and the depression of watching basketball, a great sport, be beamed out to millions of fans, who no doubt had their greasy fingers working overtime during the game, “connecting” with fellow viewers, who also were too busy to notice that the game was a rather poorly played one, full of stops-and-starts, and largely devoid of what makes the game beautiful. I wonder how, or if, this circle of a false reality and a false existence will be broken.

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