In a healthier, more rational society — one that existed at some point — sports offered a pleasant diversion from reality. Watching a game and following a team were pleasant escapes before returning to more serious matters of living.
The landscape now, however, is set up as such that it requires a terrific amount of work to keep sports in their proper perspective. And many of us have been overtaken to the point that the diversion has become the reality.
This conclusion has come gradually, but there are increasing number of "a-ha" moments that reinforce it. Maybe my perception, as someone who works in sports media, is skewed. But it feels more pervasive than just a work thing.
• The sense comes on Thursday morning, when it seems as if we're barely done digesting what has just happened in the NFL and already we are made to pay attention to the week ahead. This is the genius of the league. The Thursday night game is often garbage, but it draws you in — particularly if you are among the reported 75 million people playing fantasy football this season.
• The sense comes in the form of a deluge of off-field news that never ends. What figured to be a normal, quiet Wednesday this week turned particularly newsy when Tracy Claeys was named permanent Gophers football coach and later the Twins traded Aaron Hicks for John Ryan Murphy.
Those aren't just pieces of news, of course. Those are items about which people are bound to have opinions — happily so, as the diversion becomes the reality. Just on startribune.com, the main story about Claeys solicited more than 900 reader comments while hundreds of readers also weighed in on various iterations of the Hicks story.
• The sense comes from the relentless lengthening and overlapping of seasons. It's not so much the seasons themselves, which are roughly of the same length as they have always been, but the preseasons and offseasons demanding attention.
The crush is particularly overwhelming in November: this Friday-Sunday, you can watch on TV or attend in person a game — among others — involving the Vikings, Wild and Timberwolves, plus the Gophers football team, Gophers men's and women's basketball teams, the Gophers men's and women's hockey teams, the Gophers women's soccer team and the Gophers volleyball team … not to mention the state high school football and volleyball championships.
You might try and succeed at being a fan who keeps sports in their proper perspective, and I commend you if that is the case. It's hard to do as sports and the pleasant diversions they create soar along an exponential curve, altering our realities.