By Daniel Holz | March 20, 2011 11:15 pm

This afternoon I was passing through the Albuquerque airport, and a very large crowd of people was glued to the television. The past days have shown an unprecedented (at least in my lifetime) series of newsworthy developments. Which of the many possibilities could warrant such a rapt audience?:

One of the largest earthquakes on record, unleashing a devastating tsunami

Thousands of Japanese casualties, with hundreds of thousands displaced, and untold suffering

An ongoing serious nuclear accident, with the potential to become a nuclear disaster of global proportions

A popular uprising in Bahrain, put down by troops from neighboring Saudi Arabia

Egypt overwhelmingly voting for constitutional changes towards a democracy, in its first real election in decades (after overthrowing its dictator of 30 years in a popular uprising)

Crude oil crossing $100/barrel, with impact on global markets

Global food prices at record highs, and rising, leading to concerns about global unrest

The UK, US, and France are now at war with Libya (with the UN’s imprimatur)

None of the above. It was a basketball game. I guess there’s some sort of tournament going on. Must be important.

  • Shannon Watters

    Those horrible people were taking a few moments to entertain themselves.

  • paul bk

    I’ve never watched a complete basketball game in my life. And have no plans. I don’t get it either.

  • stpauljosh

    Maybe everyone there knew (or mostly knew) about the other newsworthy events. Maybe they decided that instead of watching and feeling an overwhelming helplessness, they needed a respite of sorts… you know, it’s tough to get socially active in-between flights and all.

  • joe

    Grr! I can’t believe people would have the nerve to get on with their lives instead of obsessing over every misfortune and disaster that makes the world such a cruel cosmic joke! People enjoying life? Can you believe it?!

  • Dave

    The overall point is that, for instance, +100 million people tune into the Super Bowl — while major news stories [from world events to scientific achievements (e.g., attaining orbit around Mercury)] always fall second in the minds of many, if that.

    We’re a self-obsessed species, and it will be at our collective expense.

    Our planet and other planets and stars and galaxies and, potentially, innumerable universes should be at the forefront. Investment in every discipline of science should be fought for, as it can lead to insights and practical applications and real inspiration: Breakthroughs discovered by true heroes.

    But then again, I guess what’s most important is putting the ball through the hoop.

  • Karl

    Just another testament to human hubris. :)

  • http://www.miskeptics.org Chris Lindsay

    Daniel, you’re not one of those elitist types that turn your nose down on the lesser, uncivilized, barbarian laypeople who entertain themselves with their bread and circuses? 😛

  • Jim Johnson

    Don’t worry, Daniel. At least one reader understood that this was humor.

  • http://kforcounter.blogspot.com Cody

    Is it just me, or does the world suddenly look somewhat Malthusian? (More than I expected it would at this point in time—I sort of always expected us to successfully avoid Malthus with technological advancement & human ingenuity.)

    Also, considering technology played a role in some of these uprisings (either by organizational help, or more so by allowing everyone to share their disapproval of the status quo, and therefore unifying the unrest), will we successfully avoid a true Malthusian catastrophe by moving towards global egalitarianism? I guess most likely we will continue to bounce between the two forces.

    I don’t really understand the attraction to sports, but then again, I don’t fully understand my attraction to theoretical physics over experimental, or physics over chemistry, science over engineering, or why I find certain women more attractive than others.

  • Mandeep

    D- yeah.. it is a sad statement indeed (and not so much a humorous one, i must say, ultimately) — it’s not *uniquely* American, but they certainly are on the whole more uninformed than say Europeans, as survey after survey has sadly shown.

    Two reasons: partly due to corporate media and the *desire* of those who control it to feed pablum to the masses (if this sounds ‘elitist’, one need only see a movie like Manufacturing Consent, or read e.g. Ben Bagdikian’s work to see the accuracy of it), and second, a voluntary choice to block off the world and focus on one’s own sphere.

    Don’t get me wrong — i dig watching some good hoops or X-games as much as your friends in the airport waiting areas — i just do think it’s kind of important to know *something* about the world accurately when we’re called on regularly to make global decisions about it (like e.g. going to war, agreeing to global treaties on climate change, voting etc.)

    Religion used to be the opiate — it’s become sports and entertainment much more in recent times. Alas.

  • http://www.savory.de/blog.htm Ole Phat Stu

    Perchance Charlie Sheen was playing?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Since Villanova lost in the first round, I am free to agree with this cynical take.

  • DCW

    Did you remember to take the left turn?

  • max

    People have always liked entertainment more than news, and I’m not at all sure that this is a bad thing.

    The amount of recent newsworthy news is pretty amazing, though.

  • http://telescoper.wordpress.com Peter Coles

    If it had been the Ireland versus England rugby match I could have understood!

  • spyder

    It is just too bad it wasn’t the Baylor women’s game.

  • Tim

    Another interesting take on the relative scale of these events:

    The money wagered on the NCAA tournament this year (actually going off of 2008 numbers) is over 10% of Bahrain’s GDP.


    So maybe it makes sense for people to be paying attention.

  • Chris

    Your moral superiority is intoxicating. Please, write more often in this voice. Not only is it refreshing to see that some brave, brave beacons of enlightenment have their priorities straight, but the fires of my heart burn even brighter when the amateur sociologists all show up to explain how male bonding over sports is a perversion, likely American in origin, and a sure sign of cultural decay. (Not to mention a sure sign of ignorance.)

    (Nota bene: I understand that the post is a wry observational remark. I’m not suggesting censure or a death sentence. It takes a certain perspective – particularly, a certain view of oneself in relation to one’s peers – to make this particular wry observational remark, and it is that perspective, particularly its haughty condescension – “Must be important.” – that I find aggravating enough to respond to. And if my reading is completely off-base, certainly a possibility, I would simply suggest that most people, particularly fans of basketball, would take it the same way.)

  • Lebron James

    Perhaps what you have in mind is that all these savages watching basketball should congregate around your blog so that you can pontificate them. More seriously, I am not implying that everything that is going on the world is right- I also feel that everybody in the world should give some thoughts to what is going on around. But perhaps most people cannot afford to spend all their time worrying and empathizing about all the tragedy and genocide that is occuring in every little corner of the world. Some people watch basketball to get some diversion in their lives while others write blog posts to critique them.It is all the same.

  • Charon

    Lighten the f&*@ up, people. Those of us who don’t care at all about basketball, and do care about major world events, aren’t calling you morons because you like to watch basketball. We all like to be entertained, now and then. What I personally don’t get (and what Daniel seems to be amused/bemused by) is that so many people all care so incredibly intensely about this single sporting tournament. What the hell? I don’t spend all my time in contemplation of deep things, but when I watch some random movie, I don’t expect the whole country to watch the same movie.

    Also, Messenger, anyone? There are really awesome and uplifting events being ignored by most people as well. (And… did you all miss the Egypt voting thing? Not everything on Daniel’s list was “tragedy and genocide”.)

  • Lebron James

    while you were crying over the earthquake in Japan (did you donate some of your Benjamin?)and genocides in Libya some people were watching Butler beating Pittsburgh and having fun since it was a hell of a game. most people rightly choose not to think about every natural disaster or accidents or war that occurs every week in one or the other part of the day that is flooded in their living room 24 hours.and most of these people have more honest and cheerful lifestyle than one which needs to look down on others to feel better about oneself.


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