I am going to scream the next time a broadcaster says sports is entertainment. It’s not. Sports is competition, it is literally war by other means, an outlet to annihilate another person without causing physical harm. It is savagery in a system. It is id, a test of your body’s limits, craftiness, gut, and grit.
It is viewed and spectated but it is not entertainment. Entertainment is fantasy, created to stimulate your imagination and pass time by evoking emotions and sensations. It is the result of an artistic and creative process. Entertainment is also a business now. Calling sports entertainment is sucking up to the altar of the business world that everything has to be a market and a transaction. It can’t.
Can sports be entertaining? Of course. Are athletes entertainers? Some are, most do things that are entertaining at times. But they are athletes, which is a different thing from an entertainer.
An athlete is entertaining when he grabs talcum powder and throws in in the air each time he enters the court. When he flips his bat. When she has a signature shimmy or makes a behind the back pass when it isn’t really necessary. Slam dunks are entertaining (and also strategic as Nelson George points out.) But this does not make the whole sport entertainment.
Networks pay ungodly sums to show sports and make them part of an entertainment show, but the sport is not entertainment any more than bears hunting for salmon is entertainment or the Iraq War is entertainment when it appears on CNN (please don’t call CNN a news channel.) They are packaged for entertainment purposes but the brown bear is hunting, she is not an entertainer.
When we say sports are entertainment, we let announcers get away with waxing poetic about athletes social media feeds and off the court activities. We get endless reflections on Steph Curry writing a letter to a little girl and burnishing his image. We get endless ads, endless sneaker deals, poor kids spending too much on shoes, athletes constantly cultivating their image. We get sports as a business. We get boring and useless talk about the value of every contract.
When we talk about sports as competition, on the other hand, we get guys trying to block breakaways because they just want to win and don’t care if they get “posterized.” We get guys playing defense because it’s not about being the face on NBA2019. Maybe we even get analysts who describe how teams compete.
Fox bragged about all their baseball announcers being former players. Because they are celebrities. Because it is entertainment. So we end up mostly with guys who can’t describe in interesting language what is happening. same with the NFL. Same with NBA TV. (TNT pulls it off because Shaq, Kenny, and Chuck are lively and Ernie Johnson is a good moderator.)
Stop calling sports entertainment. Stop letting everything be a business. Start enjoying the competition.