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Growing up in Philadelphia, it is easy to understand why I was a Philadelphia Eagles fan. That was not necessarily a given. There were a few kids that rooted for the Dallas Cowboys—but I just assumed their fathers beat on them and they suffered from some form of brain abnormality.

My second favorite team as a kid was the San Diego Chargers. It was not hard to root for them. It was an era where the Chargers had Dan Fouts as their quarterback and they played some very exciting football. And because of that, they were on TV more than other teams.

When I was a kid, you did not have the accessibility to every team as you do now. Living in a city with an NFL team, the home team was on every week. If the Eagles played at home—and nearly every home game was at 1 PM on CBS—then I got a 4 PM game on NBC…which showed the AFC. The Chargers were in that slot quite a bit. Thus, Chargers fan.

Back then, Monday night football was a big deal. You got to see teams play that you might only see once or twice otherwise. Back east, the game started at 9 PM. That was almost a sinful indulgence for schoolkids.

It was not better back then, just different. If anything it was simpler. You knew when your team was going to play and fairly certain what television network would be showing the game.

As they always do, times have changed.

Let us look ahead to this Saturday; or, more appropriately, this Saturday night. The Utah State Aggies will play their annual Homecoming Game against Air Force. Homecoming is a special event when we welcome back all of our former Aggies and pay tribute to the past. But the game might not end until half past midnight. Why? Because the game is now scheduled to kickoff at 8:15 PM.

Welcome to the age of overexposed television coverage of sports. Nearly every game in all of the major sports are televised. And with Utah State not only being a member of a better conference than a few years ago (and also playing good football), our Aggies are expected to dance around the television schedule to ensure the major sports networks have filled every day of the week and every hour of those days with live content.

How did this happen? I can explain that in three words: Digital Video Recorders.

With the advent of the DVR, namely TiVo, it became possible for all of us to tape our favorite shows and watch them not only at a time of our choosing, but also gave us the ability to fast forward through the commercials. We had this ability with the old VCRs—but that was a clumsy endeavor. With TiVo you pressed a button and away you went.

Add to that the proliferation of Internet websites that can show programming at your leisure and companies that wanted to cajole you to buy their widgets were now having their messages FF’d into obscurity.

But not with sports. Why? Because nearly all of us watch sports live. We are forced to sit through the commercials. Advertisers can continuously feed us their sales pitches and most of us are resigned to watch it.

Ch-ching!

Sports is now a multi-billion dollar business. Games are on every night in every sport at every time. Eight PM starts are normal for sporting events that run over three hours long. Sports fans are expected to keep a flexible schedule to adjust to changing game times, stay up late to watch games on school/work nights and endure long breaks in action to fill commercial time.

Football games were not longer than three hours when I was a kid. Now they are never under that. Baseball was played in roughly two-and-a-half hours. Now, it is three hours almost every night. Even college basketball has suffered because of this. You used to watch a college basketball game in two hours. It now is starting to creep past that magical two hour mark with regularity.

This is not all the fault of capitalistic avarice. The incessant use of television replay to overturn supposedly egregious error in officiating not only adds length to games but completely kills the flow of the action.

Late start times. Long games. Action killing replay stoppages. And add to that competing television contracts that makes it hard to know where you can find your team play. This potpourri makes it harder to want to watch a game. What was once just a hobby is now a commitment.

Sports does not dominate my life. When enjoyment takes effort it becomes a job. When you have to block off a sizeable percentage of your day just to watch a game you are now in a relationship. You can be the most fanatical follower of any team and yet still desire to do other things with your day or, at least, go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Let’s go back to Homecoming. If you have young children, are you going to bring them to a game that will not end until at least 11:30 PM? In Logan? In October? As I type this, the temperature that night appears to be going to be in the mid-40’s. In the afternoon, it is predicted to be about 70 degrees. And if you want to watch the game at home with your kids, do they stay up past 11 PM most nights? I don’t and I am 44.

The irony is headscratching. You only get to see your teams play at reasonable hours if they suck.

I will always love sports. But as I get older, I lack the tolerance to commit to watching games that tax my time. I find it harder to stare at replays to determine if there is 3.7 seconds left on the clock or 3.2 seconds left. It takes replay officials five minutes to determine whether they should play out an extra half second. That’s lunacy.

Sports is supposed to be a divergence from real life. When you have to keep your kids at home because a game is played too late at night in cold weather, then it is not a hobby…it’s a burden.

By Staff