It is Olympics season again. This is good news for nearly everyone in the world, but not for me. I hate the Olympics. All of my favorite shows are pre-empted in favor of hours upon hours of boring people running around or hopping up and down. The Olympics are a global celebration of everything that I generally do not like, and what I generally do not like is organized sports.
I have been angry and bitter about sports ever since I was a kid. As a musician, I constantly heard, and saw firsthand, the stories of music programs in schools being cut and sports programs being built up. Almost universally, sports programs were being nourished and grown while music was seen as optional. Orchestras disappear, opera companies fold, and the NFL has the highest rated programs on television. To me, it seemed horribly unfair.
I used to get into arguments with people about music and sports, and my position was that every culture has music, but not every culture has football. Music is a part of the fabric of the universe, built into the laws of physics and performed by man and animal alike. To compare any silly game to something as beautiful and profound as music was ridiculous to me. But I have come to realize that my argument was flawed. While every culture may not have football, every culture has sport. Games and tests of strength and skill are also a part of what makes us human, just as much as music. I just connect with music in a way that I could never connect with sports.
Maybe it's just because I was never very good at sports. I have to at least consider the fact that perhaps I am biased due to the fact that I am a good musician, but couldn't get a ball to go through a hoop to save my life. But actually, when I think about it, I actually like sports. Sports are fun! What I don't like are organized sports. To me, there is plenty of fun to be had when a bunch of people get together for a relaxed game of softball, or frisbee, or basketball, or really anything. What I don't enjoy is when people actually care if I catch the ball or not.
I spent many a gym class being glared at angrily because I had failed to catch the ball, or spike the ball, or pass the ball, or fill-in-the-blank the ball, and all I could think was "Seriously? It's GYM CLASS! It doesn't matter!" But it mattered to those kids, and I was not a popular pick for teams in my high school gym classes. I suppose it is the difference between singing in your volunteer church choir and being in the Met Opera Chorus. Sometimes you do it for fun, and sometimes you do it professionally. With music, I want to be a professional, but with sports I want to be in the community chorus. No offense to some of the truly excellent church choirs and community choruses that are out there.
The other thing that I truly don't get about sports is the desire to watch them. Why on Earth would I want to watch a bunch of people on TV playing a fun game, when I could be playing it myself? This makes no sense to me. But in a way I feel the same way about music. There is hardly a show that I go to where I don't wish I was somehow a part of it. I hear recitals and think "I could sing that." I would rather be performing than watching.
I suppose there is something to be said for watching people who are truly excellent at something at the top of their game. It's why I go to hear great singers, and why people watch the Olympics I guess, but the final piece of why these international games do nothing for me is that if you're not there in person, it loses most of what makes it exciting. Watching an orchestra perform on television can in no way compare to being at an orchestra concert, and to me sports are the same. I love baseball. I am going to be singing at Fenway Park in less than a week, and I am super excited! But I don't watch baseball on television. It is boring. The thrill of being at a game cannot be captured by cameras. I would rather go to a local game and watch a farm team play than see an amazing game on TV.
So my position on sports has evolved. I have to come to realize that music and sports are two sides of the same coin. You can watch a group of people, who have been practicing together for a long time, attempt to perform something amazing together, and that describes both sports and music. So in the end what makes me mad is not that sports are so popular, but that music is not. Why are athletes paid so much more than musicians? Why does the Superbowl rule the ratings, but the Met broadcasts on PBS do not? Why are there team stickers on every other vehicle in America, but music programs are being cut from schools? I don't know the answer, but I do know that I won't be watching any Olympics, not as a protest in hopes of creating a Music Olympics, but because watching sports on TV is boring.