Sports

So many channels, so little time

I listen to talk radio for out-of-the ordinary moments. Moments that surprise, moments that amuse, moments that make me think. Moments when Bob Lutz poses questions to the sponsors of the weekly racin' segment on his KFH morning show like these:

"How desperate do you have to be for entertainment to watch a four-hour race from start to finish?... When's the last time one of you guys watched a full race from the start of the coverage to the end... where you bear down on it throughout?"

Bob makes me laugh when he's like that.

But when you think about it... how often do any of us focus intently on any televised sporting event these days?

He's right: Races take too long. But it's more than that. When was the last time you watched every play of a football game? Every pitch of a baseball game?

Who has the time? Who has the attention span? How good does a game have to be at this point to keep us zoned in?

We have family duties. We have remote controls. We have unfettered access to Zac Efron's Twitter feed. We're dealing with a lot of stuff here.

We're under constant sensory bombardment, and not just by forces outside the sports world. It's practically impossible to keep track of all the sports viewing options on any given day.

Apparently we even have trouble paying attention to sporting events when we're actually at the sporting events. The crowd shots from the baseball playoffs show plenty of people checking their cell phones and PDAs for text messages and e-mails between pitches. Those are people who spent hard-earned money for tickets, and they still can't focus on the game.

It doesn't seem to be an issue that's specific to any one sport. Basketball season is fast approaching. We're Kansans. We love basketball. But basketball is omnipresent. If we have a serious rooting interest in a game we might — might — be able to resist outside temptation for two 20-minute halves, but if it's the daily 6 p.m. game on ESPN2, it better be incredibly spectacular if it hopes to divert attention from the "Glee" chat rooms.

Is distracted viewing the end of mankind? Nah. Here in late 2009, that's the way of the world (stay young at heart).

Our boundaries have changed. Devoting time exclusively to a baseball game when we're not even sure when it will end (unless the Yankees are playing, in which case it'll probably end after Christmas) isn't a commitment we can make. Giving more than three hours uninterrupted for a football game is an imposition at this point. Three hours of golf? Every point of a tennis match? Beyond the limits of human endurance.

And so instead we flip in and out, we take Internet detours. It makes the games go faster. It keeps us occupied.

What's left? What can we go into knowing we'll put aside all distractions for the duration of the event?

* The 100-meter dash final at the Olympics. Not the victory lap. Just the race.

* The Kentucky Derby. It's "the greatest two minutes in sports" people! The Great Two Minutes! Focus!

* Any installment of "Wipeout" on ABC. When people bounce off those big rubber balls and fall in the water, who can stop watching? Serious comedy with just a hint of sports. That's programming genius.

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