I’m a sports guy. I spend all day everyday watching sports. In my house the flatscreen Ultra HD 4K TV is always on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN4, ESPN5, ESPN6 and all the rest. I have all the cable packages, plus streaming through ESPN+, Amazon Prime. Hulu and Peacock. I even got a VPN so I can watch sports all over the world at any given time. I can cross continents and international borders with minimal effort. The knowledge that I have the ability to watch any sporting event I want whenever I want gives me enormous comfort. It soothes me to sleep at night as I bask in the blinding white light from the TV screen like it’s the rapture come to take me to an eternal paradise. What god and the angels don’t know is that I’ve already discovered heaven. It’s here on this couch, which has begun to take on a sagging v-hape due to the indent from the constant presence of my ass. I always sit in the same spot, rarely moving if I can help it. Food and drink barely cross my mind. I get all my nourishment right here.
The Tennis Channel is on today and I’m sitting in position, letting the back and forth of the ball lull me into a stupor. This is what I want to achieve; ideally, I can spend the whole day like this, drifting in and out of semi-consciousness. The typically long length of tennis matches helps to move the process along. Hours can go by and it won’t even register. Despite the fact that it seems I’m not even paying attention, I absorb a lot of the game through a process I imagine is not unlike osmosis. After logging hours and hours of watching every sport this way I become an expert. I know all the rules, every regulation and stipulation. I know every player and their individual playstyles intimately. Sometimes when I rise to the surface out of my comatose reverie, I’ll find myself thinking of coaching tips for the players: “Hit to their backhand more,” “Stand further back when you serve,” things like this. If I’m out of it enough I can convince myself that they can hear me, that we’re communicating telepathically somehow, riding the wifi signals and brainwaves all the way from my couch to Indian Wells, or the Australian Open. I’ve also used this ability to fuck with the players I don’t like. I’ve been the cause of devastating injuries and humiliating losses. I’m not afraid to admit this. Every sports guy has done it at least once.
The design of the tennis court itself is particularly conducive to my watching habit. The perfectly placed white lines of the grid, the pleasing color scheme, the whole layout is an aesthetic achievement. The strong visual component puts tennis in the upper echelon of sport, although I try to remain neutral, I’m not here to judge, but inevitably some personal preferences arise. When it’s at its best, when I’m really watching, the distinction between the games is no longer present. I see people in uniform. I see balls, fields, and courts. I hear crowds. I know I’m watching sports. I can’t even form a coherent thought, but I can watch sports. I have no creativity, no talents or skills to speak of, and remain a constant embarrassment to the people around me. I exist like a bunch of weak, useless bones stuffed into a squishy meat sack. I fear my body like I fear other people. That’s why I keep my eyes on the screen. I can’t stand to hear a human conversation but I will listen to the beautiful, percussive sound of a racket hitting a ball all day. I refuse to eat right and exercise but I watch incredibly fit people push their bodies to the limit for twenty fours a day. It’s a never-ending stream, more vital to me than the blood supposedly still in my veins or the air allegedly passing in and out of my lungs, I can’t know anything for certain, but if the TV is still on then at least it means I’m still here. This is my contribution to society, ensuring that professional athletes will still be able to make million-dollar salaries. ESPN would be on its last legs without sports guys like me.
Another set point goes by and my heart rate increases. It triggers something, a memory as foggy as a dream. It’s me. I can see myself at ten years old, stepping onto a tennis court. My kiddie racket in hand, I’m even wearing a sweatband to really look the part. I can barely return the ball but it feels good. My scrawny body is moving, sweat is rising to the surface of my pores. I’m a kid who wants to play sports even though he should be doing anything else. There are sports guys who started like this everywhere. I’ve never met one but I know it has to be true. I’m not alone here. The TV is still on.I can’t remember the last time I tried to play tennis or any sport but I can tell you all the winners from this week’s tournament, I can list the top one hundred p layers and tell you their average first serve percentages to the number. I live on Numbers and raw data. This is what sports are all about. This is precious information I contain. I can give it to you if you’d like. Sit down on the couch.