It’s that magical time of year. The NFL is rounding into midseason form, the NBA is tipping off, the MLB is playing its first meaningful games of the year, and the NHL is continuing to exist. For a sports fan, the end of October is a veritable Vegas buffet.
This privilege is not to be taken lightly. As a suffering-to-the-point-of-disinterest Mets fan, your columnist is forced to devote his summers to sports-less activities that may not even involve a television. This is counterbalanced by the fact that summer is rad. But when the temperature drops and Sundays become Sundays™ a merciful balance is maintained. The weather is fucked, but the promise of a midweek NBA slate sings a convincing rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”
That being said, sports are primarily an escape from shitty reality. It really is fucked outside, as I’m writing this, right now. The thing about fall and its transition to winter is that every single night feels like the coldest night of all time. You get the impression that you’ve never quite been this cold before. And you’re right. The human body is impressive, but we have zero muscle memory when it comes to being cold.
It’s when your hands are trembling while you text, or your body reaches near rigor mortis on the walk home, that it pays to let your mind wander a bit. To a different place, a more privileged lifestyle. And, so, during a frigid fall walk home I thought to myself: Which of these briefly overlapping major sports leagues would be most fun to play in?
While football is unequivocally The Greatest of All Sports, I don’t think anyone could argue it’s the best to play. In fact the only pro, as far as I can see, is that football is so stupendously awesome. But isn’t it better experienced as a fan than an employee? And let’s look at the facts: the NFL is the only of the big four leagues without guaranteed contracts; the league makes the most money but pays the least; you’re constantly injured and everyone gets brain damage. Football is best experienced from the couch.
It seems fun to be an NHL player. Feels like one big Canadian frat party, what with the beards and the homogeneity and the tendency for everyone to call one another by their last name. Looks like everyone’s having a pretty good time. But have you ever put on a full set of hockey pads (and skates?!)? Miserable. Takes hours, if not days. Fatal flaw.
This is the most instantly tempting. Growing up on New York City playgrounds, you start picturing yourself as an NBA star after your first basket. It’s the game in which individual talent shines the brightest, the uniforms are the most comfortable, and celeb cachet is by far the highest. Your knees take a pounding but compared to the previous two sports, basketball is a vacation. Seems like a no brainer until you realize that…
Alex Rodriguez makes thirty million dollars a year. Johan Santana makes twenty-five. Fuck fuck fuck! No one quite knows how this happened, but MLB players have conned the world into a monopoly arrangement on its most boundlessly cushy and overcompensated lifestyle. Their contracts are massive and completely guaranteed. They don’t suffer from egregiously low minimum salaries and microscopic career spans like some of the others. Injuries are largely of the wear-and-tear variety. And if you can’t hack it in the show, there’s a huge minor league ecosystem designed to keep you employed! Plus, what is that employment really? Hanging out with your friends all summer and pursuing athletic greatness while maintaining the privilege of being fat? Baseball may no longer be the American Pastime, but fuck if it ain’t the American Dream.
Featured image courtesy of more-explore.com