Do you ever catch yourself watching a professional sport and wondering ‘these guys aren’t even trying’? Have you ever left a game thinking ‘man, that was a waste of money’? That seems to be the way it goes in many sports mid-season. So why would I pay hundreds of dollars to watch a game that could end up being average-at-best if the athletes decided to take a day off?
From high school to college, amateur athletes are striving to get better each and every day. No, they may not be as talented, strong, or polished as a professional. No, they overall quality of sport may be less than that of a professional game, but the intensity, passion, and competition of amateur sport are what make it the most entertaining and the best bang for your buck. The love of the game for the game itself, not the money is what makes it so exciting.
I went to an NHL game just before Christmas. It was the Calgary Flames vs. the New York Rangers. It was a pretty good game all things considered, but I never felt truly connected to the game. All around me were corporate sponsors wooing clients, significant others (men and women) who had no idea what was going on, and macho drunks paying at least $10 a beer to get so delusional they might as well hand over the rest of their wallet to the team.
In comparison, I went to the World Junior Hockey Championships in Toronto this Christmas and it was some of the best hockey I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Sure, I also spent a tonne of money to attend; it was severely inflated by Hockey Canada because they knew Canadians would pay anything to see us take home the gold. Regardless, I got 19 games worth of tickets including two quarter-finals, both semis, the bronze and the gold medal games. It averaged out to about $42 per game which is still at least 1/3 of the average NHL ticket. Every game was played with intensity and a desire win so that even the “worst” games like Denmark Vs. Switzerland were amazing. Money is not driving these teenagers to compete. This intensity stems directly from their love of the game and pride of their country. Further, each and every game is part of an audition that circles each and every game they’ve played since committing to the sport some years ago – an audition to get drafted and eventually become a professional. These kids devote their lives to becoming the best they can possibly be so that when the corporations of the sporting world hone in to swoop them up
and turn them into money-making machines, they are at their very best. This idea doesn’t just apply to the sport at the national level because surely, competing for your country has to have an effect on effort level. But take a look at any Canadian Hockey League game and you will see young athletes driven to be the best they can be.
Another simple example is collegiate sports. These are the years that athletes are being molded into the professionals they strive to become. Take a trip to your local college volleyball, basketball, or football game. Chances are you’ll enjoy every minute of it because they’re playing for the chance to one day be a household name. Just last week I attended my University’s women’s volleyball game. They were playing an out-of-province rival for a shot at moving on in the playoffs. The game went to 5 sets, each of which was won by no more than 5 points. We were up 2-0 until we blew it and lost in 5 sets, 16-14 to close out the game. It was so entertaining to get into the game with the fans, our cocky (but hilarious) announcer, and of course the team itself. They were so fired up every play and it really added to the atmosphere. Are any of these girls going to play for our National Team? Not likely. But the competition and the thirst for the victory made it well worth the $5 I payed to watch.
Collegiate football is another example of getting your money’s worth for sporting events. Granted, some of the top schools in the NCAA have prices competitive with some NFL games, but you don’t have to attend an SEC or Big 10 school to watch good football. Especially if you are a student, you can usually get free or ridiculously cheap tickets to your college games. I have attended games at Boise State (vs. Toledo) and Kentucky (vs. Bama at #1) and the emotion and devotion of the fans in the sold-out stadiums really sets the tone for excitement.
Loaded with students and life-long fans or graduates, college football is the ultimate indulgence of amateur sport. Every game has bowl season at stake and every play will be scrutinized by draft experts and scouts for athletes looking to make the jump to the NFL. For that reason, they can’t take a game off. You won’t be caught at an NCAA game where the team lacks effort – their scholarships and future depend on it.
You might be thinking that many of these athletes are in fact driven by money; that they strive to be the best so that they can make millions of dollars when they go pro. I for one, think that the athletes truly do desire to become a professional in their sport because that is the reality of the dream; to be one of the best in the world at something they’ve done their whole life. To win Stanley Cups and Super Bowls. The glory is what they strive for, not the money. And regardless if they are driven by money, the simple fact remains that you will get just as much, if not more entertainment out of an amateur sporting event than spending hundreds of dollars to watch professionals take a night off. Sure, you may end up seeing a historic game that will live on in the media for years. But if you don’t, will it really be worth breaking the bank for?
Let me know when you’ve seen an amazing amateur game in the comments below and let me know what you think!
Thanks for reading.