There is a new post at Maggies showing how little of the "game time" for baseball and football is actually athletic action. Commenters immediately pointed out that hockey and soccer have more continuous action. Basketball is somewhere in between. Olympic sports tend to be more like baseball and football, with bursts of action punctuating periods of regathering, strategising, setting up, waiting around. Hockey and soccer aren't truly continuous either - there are face-offs, announcement of penalties, and periods where the action slows down greatly. Still, point taken. Football is five seconds of action out of every thirty, baseball 2-10 seconds of action, mostly the former, a few times a minute. Soccer and hockey players are moving more, even if a lot of that is slow, waiting for bursts. Tennis is likewise. Golf is the extreme at one end, running marathons at the other.
"Wait, wait, wait and then quick, quick, quick," Ted Williams said about hitting. There is something of that in popular spectator sports. There is set up and preparation for each burst, because in those few seconds, there is an attempt at an intensely difficult physical act which combines power and finesse, in the context of fatigue and distraction. Yes, even in soccer, with its repeated set-ups, ranging up and down through low-intensity, medium-intensity, and high-intensity moments.
That's what we like to watch. A batter having enough power to drive a ball 400 feet but having a window less than a centimeter of where the bat hits the ball. A wide receiver catching a ball on the tips of his fingers at full speed while someone is bumping into him and about to grab him. A tennis player crushing a backhand just clear of the net and only an inch in bounds. All this with injuries and tiredness both physical and mental. There is usually something on the line, as well, whether it is money or status.
We must see our own lives in this, or we wouldn't care much.