In just about any sport there is, a rooting interest makes the sport more interesting.A rooting interests makes just about any play more interesting.
Of the four major sports in the US, Hockey is the most agonizing when there's a rooting interest. The reason is the game goes with the foot on the gas for most of the time.
If you've ever watched playoff hockey with a rooting interest, you know what I mean. When the Sabres are in the playoffs, the whole game is spent on the edge of the seat, in anticipation of a goal. Indeed, goals come out of the nowhere in hockey, and that makes it even more interesting. In basketball, baskets come all the time. So the anticipation isn't there. In Football and Baseball, the anticipation is made for TV: full count with the bases loaded. 4th and inches. Those are edge of the seat moments, but when they end, the fan can go back to the whole seat.
In the sport mentioned above, we're often fans of the city. But the players on the team aren't us. The players on the Buffalo Sabres aren't from Buffalo (with rare exceptions). And while they represent Buffalo, they aren't Buffalo.
So now, if you're still with me, start with a rooting interest. If you're from the US, then you can root for your country. A rooting interest in the people from your country is what is cool about the Olympics.
Now, add in some real-world, built in rivalries. England v France. Spain v Mexico. England v Germany. US v Mexico. Argentina v Brazil. Algeria v France. North Korea v US. Many of these games won't happen, but could. Geopolitical tensions are present at Football matches. And this just adds to the rooting interest of fans.
England vs US, the colony that got away has a historical arc that puts Yankees Red Sox in an entirely different bracket.
So, you have rooting interest in countries with additional geo-political back drops that make the result that much more critical.
So here's where the edge of your seat comes back. Football doesn't stop for commercial. It doesn't offer the fan with a rooting interest a moment's rest. There aren't time outs (or TV time outs). Leave for a pee, and you might miss a goal.
And while people in the US point to the lack of goals as an indictment of the game, it's the potential of a goal that makes the game great. Not the goal. The goal is the release of tension. The build up to a scoring chance is a built up to tension. That goals are rarely scored underscores how much tension gets built.
My first ever competitive race that I paid to enter was a marathon.
Let me repeat that.
The first race I ever paid to enter was 26.2 miles of pure hell. It's not hyperbole to say that the marathon ate me up and spit out my carcass sometime around mile 23.
Back in October 2001, at mile 13, I was on top of the world. I felt strong. I had just looked at the clock and saw 1:53.12.
And that was the official time clock, I didn't get the starting line at 00:00:00, there was a good 00:30 between me at the start line, so I was more than likely at mile 13 at 1:52:00.
That's almost two hours, but again, I was feeling free. Strong.
Here's the thing about the wall. It's in your head. But your head is pretty good at making you think it's in your legs.
At mile 20 of the marathon, my head noticed something about the next step. It noticed that each step was the longest my legs had ever gone at one time. In training for my first ever "I paid for this" race, I'd run many long runs. It was normal to bang off 12, 14, and 16 miles on a Tuesday night.
But the longest of those long runs was a 20 miler. So at the 20 mile mark, as my legs began to get annoyed at all the work they were putting in, my head pointed out the fact that this was the longest they'd ever been asked to run.
They didn't reply until mile 23. At mile 23, they said "no mas".
Before you think this has a sad ending, my brain convinced my legs to go a little further and I finished. I think because Rhona and my parents were at the finish line.
Since then, I’ve ran the fun corporate challenge/turkey trot, St. Patrick’s get drunk races. These are the kinds of races where there's a party at the end of each race.
I'm telling you all of this because I'm in the process of talking my dad into running a half marathon with me. If he agrees, this will be only the second race I’ve paid for that didn’t have a party attached to it.
But we'll keep you posted. Because we'll require a party at the end.