An Unhinged Commencement for the Graduating Class of 2017

The sports world is — for me at least — at a bit of a low tide moment presently. Professional baseball has roughly a million games left on the schedule, the NFL Draft has come and gone, and college football and basketball couldn’t possibly be further away.

The NBA and NHL playoffs are in full swing, but I have my issues with both.

Each is entertaining in its own right, I just can’t bring myself to care. The NBA has whittled itself down to the same handful of teams we always expected to still be alive at this point in the season. Meanwhile, hockey suffers from an odd kind of disconnect with casual fans like myself.

No sport has a greater difference in my view between being watched in person and on television than hockey.

I went to my first two NHL games this season and enjoyed both. Watching hockey firsthand is an oddly invigorating experience, particularly when swilling Labatt Blue while surrounded by Canadians angered by losing to the Sabres.

On television, the energy simply doesn’t translate unless you’re some kind of gambler or fanatic.

So what on Earth is my point in all of this?

I think most likely it’s a simple reflection of my getting older. ESPN doesn’t mean anything anymore and SportsCenter is the kind of disposable garbage that could easily be swapped with MTV programming without anyone taking meaningful notice.

As such, I don’t look for highlights of the playoffs and have no vested interest due to a lack of teams from my general vicinity playing.

I mostly spend my free time reading or consuming news of all horrifying flavors, which leaves little time for sports outside of bars or social occasions. If you’re a young person, I can assure you it will happen to you. If you’re older, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Editor’s Note: It’s worth mentioning that I’m only 31. I don’t know how this happened to me, but I’ve always been advanced for my age I suppose.

I’ve pared down my sporting intake as my bandwidth has reduced. I spend time with friends and family and rarely worry about the results of games outside of my limited scope of caring, which is essentially just college football and basketball.

Those games are still relatively affordable which is a major concern. Plus, there are plenty of games, but not too many so as to devalue the regular season.

There’s also an issue with professional leagues and their procrustean rulemaking. There’s no room for individuality or free expression the way there mostly still is in college.

On a given weekend of college football for example, I fully expect to be thrilled, offended, excited, devastated, confused, and most of all surprised. When was the last time you were truly surprised by NFL football? Any “upset” still comes at the hands of professionals. It isn’t completely shocking that a group of adults who do nothing but work out and play football can occasionally pull things together for a couple of hours. Even Cleveland.

College is just more fun, and there perhaps is my point.

I can’t relate to professional athletes. I’ll never know what it’s like to be disturbingly well-compensated for having all the impact on the world that Sisyphus had when pushing a boulder up a hill.

I can relate to college kids fighting their way through a week of pop quizzes and term papers just to reach that sweet release on Saturday afternoon. I completely understand the welcome wrench thrown into study plans by an important Wednesday night basketball game.

It all comes back to a sense of longing for the simpler days of youth. The world is a dreadful place filled with cutthroats, thieves, hornswogglers, and salesmen. There is also a negative side.

However, don’t despair completely.

There will always be crisp fall afternoons where the rising sounds of serious head trauma meet the supportive throngs of alumni flocking like birds to their autumnal homes. There will always be bitter winter evenings spent hovering over the TV illuminated by artificial light, cheap beer, and the hopes that come spring, maybe your school will still be playing games that matter.

As you enter the world, it’s vitally important to maintain proper perspective. Never lose sight of the simple pleasures that remind you of more pleasant times. Also, don’t get overly wrapped up in the professional world, that has never benefited anyone’s sanity.

Always keep learning, always remain open to possibilities, and whatever you do find a way keep the spark of madness from going out completely.

Visit new places, eat weird things, experience everything you can, listen to good music and don’t ever let anyone tell you what that music should be.

Don’t worry about getting older. That part takes care of itself.


Follow me on Twitter @BestCates and follow @InsideTheACC for more Atlantic Coast Conference coverage.

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