I was watching a few minutes of some college basketball games yesterday and today.
Without remembering the exact matchups, I was able to check out teams like Purdue, Ohio State, Miami, Vanderbilt, Florida, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Maryland, Michigan, and Oklahoma State.
I wasn’t surprised I knew absolutely none of the players. With the one and done rule, and basically only watching college basketball in March since I moved to Texas, I’ve only been able to get to know a handful of individual players each year in college basketball. Most of them usually on the Gonzaga roster.
But I was shocked that the only coach I knew was Michigan’s Juwan Howard. Everyone else I’d either never heard of or had no idea they were coaching their current team.
In the 1990’s through 2010-ish I wouldn’t be surprised if I could name 80-90% of the NCAA basketball coaches in the big-time conferences.
Now, if your name’s not Roy Williams, Coach K, Mark Few, Jim Boeheim, Tom Izzo, Bill Self, John Calipari, or Shaka Smart, I have no idea where you are coaching.
Do you know I can’t name a single coach in the Pac-12? I don’t even know who coaches UCLA.
And I’m not gonna waste time looking it up either. It’s UCLA’s responsibility for me to know who their head coach is by always hiring a big time name, announcing it for two straight weeks of news cycles, and then playing good enough on the court to get me to retain that information. Otherwise quit with the constant bullshit rhetoric of ‘one of the top two or three jobs in the country…’ every time it becomes available.
Speaking of which, who the hell coaches Indiana these days?
Kentucky went 9-16 this year?
Great ‘three best jobs in the country’ college basketball.
I started thinking about it a little harder and NCAA basketball isn’t alone.
I’m way behind on sports in general.
I used to know a ton about hockey. I didn’t watch it a lot but I had a good friend that did. I always knew all the stars in the NHL and played hockey video games quite a bit back when I actually enjoyed that stuff .
Now I can literally only name two professional hockey players. Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.
The four majors in golf used to be appointment television. The first three rounds were always on in the background, and Sunday I’d watch every shot.
Now I don’t watch any. The last time I watched golf for more than an hour was when Tiger won the Masters in 2019. It was his redemption story, so I had to turn it on.
I used to be able to name several players per team in Major League Baseball. Now, if you take the Twins line-up out of the picture, I can probably only name 20 players in the league.
I just went through the standings…I can name 14 (out of 30) current MLB managers (including Rocco Baldelli of the Twins.) I used to be able to name them all, minus one or two.
My NBA knowledge is currently just merely okay. I know all the star players still, but back in the day I used to be able to name the top 6-8 players on every team and all the coaches, minus two or three.
I just checked the standings again. As of this moment I can name 18 of the 30 current NBA head coaches. I was shocked I could actually name that many.
But the thing that surprises me the most is my lack of NFL knowledge. If it doesn’t directly involve the Minnesota Vikings I barely seem to know anything anymore.
I can probably still name every starting quarterback in the league once the season starts, but other than that, if you aren’t a trendy player making splash plays that go viral, I likely don’t know who you are.
I used to pride myself on knowing all the NFL field goal kickers in the league. I’d sit in school or at work running through the teams in my head to see if I could name their kicker.
I don’t think I can name more than 4 or 5 total right now.
Without blinking an eye I used to be able to name every head coach in the NFL and 75% of the coordinators in the league. After looking at the standings I don’t know who coaches the Falcons, Texans, Eagles, Chargers, or Giants, and I can only name a hand full of coordinators, mostly the retreads.
And frankly I don’t care.
I can go on and on and on with the ‘I used to’ stories about my ability to recognize individual players and coaches better 15-30 years ago than I can now, but as I sit here today and look upon the last few years of my life I’m more interested in the reasons why.
The common reason someone in my position would give for a sharp decline in sports retention over the last few years would be getting married and having kids. Not a whole lot of time to watch sports anymore.
Reality or excuse?
There are many nights since the pandemic began where I’ve been awake late after the wife falls asleep. I stay up because there’s no noise at that time of the evening and I’ll gladly sacrifice a little sleep to enjoy some peace and quiet most nights. The opportunity certainly doesn’t come along often during the day.
But what do I do during that time?
I’ll listen to a podcast, watch a documentary, read a book (that’s right, an actual book), see if there’s a game on tv that’s close I can catch the end of, or go on Twitter and youtube for what feels like five minutes but is actually 1-2 hours.
What I don’t do is watch Sportscenter…
I used to always watch sports highlight shows. Specifically Baseball Tonight, Sportscenter, and NFL Primetime.
It was always appointment television.
Before getting constant updates on my phone, or instant access to any game score I wanted was even a possibility, a sports nut like me would often have to wait till the 9, 11, or 12 o’clock Sportscenter to get caught up on all things sports. That and the morning newspaper were my only constant sports sources.
It’s amazing how every night having to wait for the specific highlights I wanted to see come on Sportscenter broadened my horizons.
Think about it. Baseball teams play 162 games. That’s a lot of nights to be sitting up waiting on Minnesota Twins highlights. Meanwhile I’m seeing everything else. Depending on the time of year, MLB crosses over with virtually every major sport at some point.
The same goes for the NBA and waiting for San Antonio Spurs highlights when they had David Robinson, Sean Elliott, and Company. They played 82 games a year plus playoffs.
And even if I was fortunate enough to watch the games in real time, I’d still wait up for the highlights.
My dad and I were notorious for watching 3+ hours of Vikings football on Sundays and then tuning into NFL Primetime at 5pm on ESPN to wait for the highlights of a game we literally just watched.
In waiting for that game to arrive on the reel I got to see and learn a lot about other teams and their players.
Now-a-days I don’t even know if Sportscenter exists anymore. The highlight shows have all fallen by the wayside in this instant access world.
So while I can get quicker access and more awareness and knowledge of the teams I like, everybody else slips through the cracks.
I don’t even know that much about the Packers or Bears anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not out here clamoring for the days of land line phones, cable tv with 34 channels, a ‘clicker’, and no internet.
I’m a grown ass man with plenty of resources to find out what I need to know.
There are plenty of advanced analytics these days that can accurately tell me how productive a single player or team is.
But I miss the highlight shows being my only option. The monopoly they once had was directly responsible for a superior knowledge of sports at a younger age.
So this next week when March Madness officially starts I’ll be basking in the glory of being able to get on Hulu, Spectrum, Pluto, or whatever streaming service is needed and be able to pick out any game I want to watch at the touch of a button.
Then I’ll sit down to watch games that feature coaches and players I know nothing about, partially because yeah, maybe I’m older with a family and have new time consuming responsibilities,…
But also because the modern era of consuming sports has made my favorite highlight shows virtually extinct.
(The reason is watching sportscenter highlights every night for an hour of appointment television got me very familiar with not only the stars of the league but the role players who’d come up big some nights…baseball 162, NBA 82, NHL 82, NFL my dad and I would watch NFL Primetime every Sunday evening for an hour, win or lose vikings…got us more familiar with the other teams players and coaches.