It’s the day after Thanksgiving.
You’re feeling bloated.
Did you really need to watch the Detroit Lions sacrifice their holiday like turkeys, as they have every year since 1934, with a break only for World War II?
Did you find yourself tuning in to college football and hockey games purely out of a TV habit, hypnotized by the scrolling shorthand at the bottom of the screen? Which was more on your mind: Sweet potatoes or sweet speculation on who might be the next general manager of the Dolphins?
Perhaps now — with the smell of microwaved gravy in the air — is the time to cut some of those empty sports calories. Time for a garage sale of our junky sports culture.
We live in a country of supersized sports saturation. Here are some healthy steps toward reducing athletic excess:• Shorten seasons. The 2011-12 NBA lockout made the length of the schedule seem reasonable. Too bad it wasn’t made permanent. The nine-month NBA and NHL seasons drone on and on like a filibustering senator. Milwaukee Bucks vs. Charlotte Bobcats: Is that a contest or a homework assignment? There is too much preamble before the welcome mat to the playoffs is laid out for too many teams.
March Madness hardly needed more Cinderellas but invited them anyway, forcing us to submit our office pool brackets earlier. Tennis players’ offseason lasts as long as a changeover. Major League Baseball’s generosity toward the also-rans is part of the reason the Boston Red Sox beards were so luxuriant.
The NFL, which has brilliantly monopolized most of the year with its Combine, draft and training camp sideshows, will inevitably expand to 18 games. Do yourself (and your family) a favor: If you’re thinking of hosting an OTA party, seek therapy.• Stamp out podium proliferation at the Olympics. The increase in the number of sports and events at the Summer and Winter Games is such a problem that Olympic leaders call it “gigantism,” as if it’s a disease. Did you know that halfpipe skiing has been added for the Sochi Games? Can halfpipe figure skating be far behind? For luge enthusiasts, they’ve added a team relay, opening the door for skeleton athletes to demand the same. Snowshoeing anyone? Golf has been added for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. Spare us Tiger Woods at the Olympics! Bring back tug-of-war instead.
• Timeout on timeouts. Wouldn’t the world be a less annoying place if timeouts and mosquitoes were eradicated? Soccer doesn’t need them, so why does football, which has huddles between plays, or basketball, which has plenty of stoppages plus an array of assistant coaches? Games are way too long as it is due to TV interruptions. There are so many allotted timeouts that no one can keep track of them all. Just ask Chris Webber.
• Batter up, already! The endless primping and wardrobe fixing at the plate would put even Lady Gaga to shame. If a player steps out of the box more than once to adjust gloves, helmet, elbow pad, cup, hair, necklace, etc., it’s an automatic strike.
• Less mixed martial arts and poker, more horse racing and high school sports.
• Eliminate erectile dysfunction commercials. Based on broadcasting trends, you’d think this was an epidemic among sports fans. We don’t want to hear doctors’ chummy pitches for patients. Keep private parts private.
• Turn down noise pollution. Please tell your local team you are sick of the deafening music and hokey sound effects. NBA players should complain about dribbling to the beat of bad organ ditties. Tennis players such as Maria Sharapova and Vika “Shrieka” Azarenka must hush their grunting; a tennis court needn’t sound like a maternity ward or bird-callers’ convention. Likewise, we could all do with less blabbing and blogging by sports commentators. Analyzing a dropped pass to death, pontificating on a draft pick — take a vow of silence for 24 hours.
• Call 1-888-ADMIT-IT. Less gambling means fewer gambling addicts. Yet sports books keep churning out exotic and ridiculous odds. Let’s resist wagering on the chances of Mike Krzyzewski ever letting his hair go natural (100-1).
• Less ink, more skin, beautiful skin.
• Less belligerence. You can be a loyal fan without insulting those who don’t happen to share your obsession.
• Less pain. On the serious side, the NBA is incomplete without Derrick Rose, and the University of Miami isn’t the same team without Duke Johnson. Brett Favre can’t remember his daughters’ soccer games, Tony Dorsett can’t remember his destination when he’s driving his car, Junior Seau couldn’t remember what joy felt like. Injuries are the terrible tradeoff for our soaring heroes. Concussions and the cumulative brain damage caused by them were ignored for too long. The cruel edge of locker room bonding can be carried too far — just ask an African-American grandmother about name-calling bullies and what she endured so that her descendants would not have to hear the N-word. While it is not always possible to prevent ruptures in bodies pushed to the limit and it’s going to be difficult to reduce violence in a game beloved for its violence, everyone can practice empathy.
• Overcome the adversity of clichés. Going forward, on the ground and at the end of the day, can we pledge never to employ these useless phrases again? And that applies even if our backs are against the wall.