I have friends outside the academic world, and I find them more widely versed in the world: sports, politics, TV, movies, music, etc.
When I have a conversation with an academic, it's about school, teaching, books, and usually all of those things that make up the work day for me. Even when I try to find out if they're backing the Pats or the Giants, it's a non starter.
My friends outside academe, however, are ready to go toe to toe on Gingrich and Tiger Woods and that new Alcatraz show. And they have no problem weighing in on whether Eli Manning is a pretender or not.
And my academic friends sometimes don't just show disinterest in sports, there's often a particular disdain for it. "Football is stupid." "Basketball is stupid."
Q: How "sporty" are you or your colleagues? Can you get a good debate going about any of the major sports?
I honestly wouldn't know whether my colleagues like sports, or much of anything else, because I don't talk to most of my colleagues about anything outside of work. Why? Because--as you point out here--they're not all that interested in the outside world. That seems to be endemic in academia, sadly.ReplyDelete
I have recently lived in Massachusetts (Red Sox Nation) and now Central New York (Yankee's Territory) and I've got to say that it would appear to me that academics in these areas are just as sports obsessed as their non-academic counterparts. Maybe it's because I'm in huge sports areas, and Hiram, having also lived in OH, other than some crazy Clevelanders (who's teams rarely win anyway), there was much less sports interest there in general. I don't know. I don't like football or basketball, but I'll talk hockey with anyone who wants to (Go Pens!), and though I don't love baseball, I know enough to chime in when the Yankees fans surrounding me get started. I also know that I will hear about this year's Superbowl from my current colleagues (go Jersey Giants!) and from my old colleagues (it's New England vs NY, for those not in the know).ReplyDelete
Maybe your just surrounded by embittered Browns fans. Try saying "Steelers" and see if people bite back.
I was never athletic, or any kind of a sports fan. It goes back to early childhood: when other kids were outside bashing their heads into each other, I was inside reading. Some might think it a shame, since sports is seemingly the main thing my university does (the other thing being remedial education), but I have always been completely indifferent to it.ReplyDelete
I think I'm pretty well versed in politics, movies, music, and the arts, although I don't own a TV and I rarely watch it. I really can't stand to for long, because it's so stupid. Many scientists show a mild interest in politics, no doubt because it affects their funding. But frankly, I'd rather not discuss politics at work, and I think that's a good policy for most jobs.
Although you don't own a TV? I'd say watching TV can be an impediment to forming an understanding of the world.Delete
I was once upbraided by a heavy TV watcher that, if I didn't watch TV, I "wouldn't know what goes on in the world." I think precisely the opposite.Delete
I would love to know what Noam Chomsky reads. Clearly, he doesn't get his information from TV news.
I've stopped going into the staffroom to actually 'relax' - I heat my lunch there then eat at my desk - because the ONLY acceptable topic of conversation is stupid effing football (soccer to US people). And not playing football - that would be OK - but the industry of football.ReplyDelete
A few years ago, some people used to talk about sport they watched, some about sport they played, some about TV shows, or books, or the news - there were always two or three conversations going on and sport would only be a topic some days. But then we appointed a couple of new younger male lecturers... and now it's stupid sport all the flaming time. No women faculty now spend their breaks in the staff room. Departmental pub outings usually involve watching 'The Game' (which nixes other conversation and is just boring to some of us - male or female) and generally sport (watched sport, as opposed to sports one plays) has really had a negative effect on our department.
It's been said that if sports didn't exist, Congress would have invented it. It's the old bread and circuses approach.ReplyDelete
It appears to be working.
I grew up near Boston during the dynasty eras of the Bruins and Celtics. My dad was a couch fan (remember ABC's Wide World of Sports?) I got to see most of the Boston teams play a couple of times via Scout-sponsored trips. But that was the depth & breadth of my sporting indoctrination. So I inherited a basic knowledge of most major sports, coupled with watching the sports headlines in the morning, I can be conversational about the most recent sporting event.ReplyDelete
But I have no passion for any team and/or sport. (Though it was fun to be a Boston transplant teaching in NYC when the Red Sox ended their World Series drought!)
To Hiram's question though, I wonder if part of the generalized disinterest might be from the insidious effect of NCAA sports in college? (See the ongoing series of columns in the New York Times by Joe Nocera.)
@ Girls Are Geeks, my upstate NY experience was that Boston teams are usually represented alongside New York's (which would be sacrilegious in the NYC metro region). But away from the city, many hold the city's dominance of the state's sports identity in disdain so support their rivals!
I guess it might depend on how far away you are, because where I am is clearly Yankee territory, but I'm a good 2 1/2 hours from the Mass border. Maybe being closer changes things. I'm also still close-ish to the city, I know once you hit the Finger Lakes, loyalties wane. I grew up in Jersey, so I know Yankee mania from a personal (as in my parents) perspective.Delete
Academics are not usually as immersed in mainstream popular culture as the rest of the world, and there is nothing wrong with that. With umpty-million people jabbering away about Snooki, Kyle Williams, and Newt, the absence of my voice is not a big deal.ReplyDelete
And national-level sports ARE stupid.
Sorry. The only sport that doesn't bore me to tears is baseball, and then I only care about 2 teams--the one I grew up cheering and the local team where I live now. (the former is my favorite still) I've never heard a sports conversation in my department and I'm the only one that seems to have anything sports-related in their office (something with my favorite team's logo on it.)ReplyDelete
FWIW, I have attended a few of my school's games to cheer on one of my students.
I know a lot of non-academics, and find them all much more roundly-prepared to talk about the rest of the world than my colleagues.ReplyDelete
It's been a bit of a problem for me in my career because I don't want to be in academic-mode 24/7. I have some colleagues who I couldn't talk to for more than 90 seconds before rigor mortis set in for both of us. I don't buy that this intensity should be expected or normal.
As for sports, particularly, I like all the major sports, and have a fixation on a couple of minor ones, and I like seeing students do their thing on the field, pitch, whatever.
I agree with F and T about academics not being as tuned into pop culture as most Americans, and I think that's an admirable trait in a society's intellectual classes.ReplyDelete
What bothers me, however, is the knee-jerk denigration of organized athletics by academics, generally speaking of course. I'm strongly opposed to the financial and academic abuses of big-time college sports myself, and I understand that that may be underlying some of the automatic negativity toward organized sports.
However, I would venture a guess that most of us care about or physical fitness and participate in some sort of athletic activity fairly regularly, be it jogging, tennis, golf, walking, or just visiting the gym somewhat regularly. We had a pick-up basketball game in my graduate department that had high participation by both grad students and faculty.
College and professional athletes are simply people who have worked very hard to hone their talents in order to compete successfully. To achieve excellence in athletic endeavor is as beautiful and satisfying as achieving excellence in any other endeavor, and takes as much time and commitment. I'm not saying that there's anything at all wrong with simply being disinterested in sports. But before you dismiss professional athletes as knuckle-draggers, maybe take a closer look at what they do. If I had the work ethic of Drew Brees, I would have published 20 books by now. Take a look at one of his passes that falls over the receiver's shoulder into his hands while he's running full-throttle and defended by two opponents. Whatever else you may, rightly, think about the NFL, a play like that is amazing to watch, maybe even beautiful.
Personally, I'm a mix. I don't give half a damn about pro sports in general, but I enjoy going to baseball games and possess enough general knowledge to avoid being socially awkward. This lack of interest probably stems, like Frod wrote, from a book-centered childhood, for which I blame my parents. Dad would occasionally fall asleep watching the Braves on WTBS, mostly because it was suitably soporific, and Mom couldn't have been paid to care about sports; I never got the bug.ReplyDelete
As far as my colleagues go, I've never heard any of the women mention sports, other than the lecturer who's a newly-enraptured convert to the joys of college football. Of the men, none of them talk sports at work, but when we hang out after playing basketball on weekends, the other fellows will start in and chatter away about whatever pro sport is in season. I just shut up and drink my beer.
I work in cheesehead country. If I didn't know something about the Packers, I'd have a rough time dealing with students and colleagues.ReplyDelete
My colleagues here seem to be more into sports than other places I've been. I never got into them though. Even though I did ballet and karate, I sucked at anything that involved a ball. This reduced my enjoyment of watching others play. Furthermore, the kids who were really obsessed with professional sports teams tended to be the ones doing things like holding me down and farting on me (they weren't the ones beating me up, to be fair) so even if I had been interested there wouldn't have been anybody to talk to. Not being interested as a kid has lead me to be mostly uninterested now as well, though I know enough to get by.ReplyDelete
The department I got my PhD at was obsessed with reality tv though. Any time the women in the department got together that was ALL they could talk about. Every once in awhile they would ask what I watch, and then tell me their kids watch what I watch (shows like Lost, Fringe, House, etc.). Shows with plot, apparently, are for children. *sigh*
No, I think we're the working group.ReplyDelete
I'm very up on politics, know something about music, read a lot, and can talk about some movies, and TV that has narrative and character arcs (BBC exports, BSG most of the way through, anything written by Joss Whedon, though Dollhouse's 2nd season was a disappointment, that sort of thing). However, I don't usually watch the tV while it's on TV because anything I really like routinely gets cancelled halfway through the first season, and I don't like to get attached and then disappointed, over and bloody over.ReplyDelete
I don't talk about these things with colleagues much because it's a bad idea to talk about politics at work (though in fact from accidental slips I gather we're all on the same page), and TV tends not to come up. Occasionally there will be a conversation about a movie. They'd revoke my citizenship if I didn't know who was in the Stanley Cup, and if a Canadian team makes it to the final we will all know about that.
I wouldn't associate "knowing about sports" with "knowing about the world", though, so I was surprised at your connection. My colleagues aren't particularly sporty, though I think one or two follow hockey, but we're all pretty knowledgeable about current events, and that sort of thing.Delete
We enjoy watching football and talking (yelling, actually) about politics when we go out for beer. All the men and some of the women in my department have opinions about sports so we have some pretty enjoyable conversations at work too. About half my department is right of center compared to the public at large - a somewhat unusual situation, I've observed. This puts them way right of center among academics. Political discussions can be amusing when the more liberal person simply assumes, because he's talking to another professor, that other person is at worst a moderate democrat. Questions like, "On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being pure evil and 10 being Hitler, how bad do you think George Bush was?" provide some entertaining dialogue.ReplyDelete
Personally, I try to avoid political discussions at work because
1. I'm not a very good debater and
2. The other person is clearly wrong.
My department never discusses sports. Never. Not even during the Olympics. Unless you count "Dancing with the Stars" as a sport (I don't). I attend the student athlete games on campus and have seen staff members there, but rarely another faculty member. Students look surprised to see me there. One even took it upon herself to explain the game of basketball to me (she assumed I didn't know how it was played), which shows how unlikely it is for faculty members to attend games.ReplyDelete
We DO discuss politics in my department. And we yell and shout our opinions for 5-10 minutes (all at the same time), and then wander back into our cubbyholes to grade some more. Then again, we also had a rousing discussion about vacuum cleaners before all shuffling back into our offices one day.