Do You Prefer Watching Sports or Playing Sports?

Play or Watch?

  • Play

    Votes: 6 28.6%
  • Watch

    Votes: 6 28.6%
  • Other (I like both/I don't like anything)

    Votes: 9 42.9%

  • Total voters


Sep 12, 2007
That has got me to questioning whether I should continue to be in this observation role, or if I should start to engage directly in more stuff.

I was very active in sports growing up, playing both soccer and hockey thru high school, and I had my fair share of lumps: got knocked out once by a vicious check in hockey, and I lost most of the cartilage in my right knee playing soccer. And when I was in the Army I played flag football pretty much every year during my 7 year career. Fast-forward 30 years to 2016 and I'd been enjoying my new-found sport of distance running (15km range) when my right knee (i.e. the one I'd lost the cartilage in) started really bothering me. I went to the local running store and they suggested I go with the Hoka Clinton's, which are a running shoe designed for ultra-padding, and it really did the trick - problem solved! Fast forward to now and I've been doing a lot of challenging downhill skiing in prep for our big trip of the season to one of the local big mountains, and once again my knee is really giving me problems. My wife (a nurse) proscribed a lidocaine patch, heating pad, and Tylenol, and gave me a stern warning that things are only going to get worse as the years progress, so I should probably once again assess which sports I continue to participate in.
So swinging back around to the OP's question regarding remaining in an observation role in regards to sports, or whether they should start to engage more directly: I think it boils down to an introspective question, where you need to look in the mirror and ask why, as there will be costs associated with either choice, and you need to make that decision as to what you are willing to accept cost-wise, and what you want to accomplish with your life.



Dec 1, 2011
Bilbao, Basque Country
I voted other.
There are sports I like playing, but don't like watching such as handball, I use to play handball while in high school, I enjoyed it, but don't like too much watching.
I like playing football/soccer but I only like watching it if the team I support is present.
On the other hand, there are sports I like watching, such as cycling, but currently I feel really unconfortable riding outside. I can enjoy as well a match of basque hand pelota, but the play is not for me.


Load Balanced
Nov 24, 2014
I like playing sport more than watching it, mainly because I don't watch a lot of sport. I play water polo, and greatly enjoy it (though, uh, it's been a year and counting for obvious RL reasons).

That said I do get into stuff like rugby and even football when watching with some good friends. But that's more a shared experience than the sport specifically. I guess I enjoy F1 occasionally as well, but don't have the time to keep up with it too much.

I'm glad I wrote this before I voted, I'm "both" I guess.

The Civs 6

May 27, 2020
The whole reason I bring this topic up is because I feel a lot of dissonance with my experiences as a spectator:
  • I love watching one of the big 4 sports, which I have never played in my life. I don't really have any understanding of the tactics and strategy, and I just sort of enjoy the spectacle of it. But I did play an intense contact sport when I was younger. There is a lot of controversy about the risk of playing - personally for me, there are some physically risky things the players do that I wouldn't do myself and others that I would do and feel no guilt about watching.
  • I used to watch many, many hours of people professionally playing video games. I also used to spend many, many hours playing that game. There isn't really any controversy about the game, but I specifically quit it because I think the game is a bad influence on my life. But I would feel no guilt about watching it if researchers someday found that there were serious health risks to inordinate amounts of time spent playing it (which I think is pretty much inevitable).
  • I am now starting to watch combat robotics. I don't think there is any conceivable way that combat robotics harms the participants. I also am purely a spectator in this case - I couldn't conceivably engage in this pursuit (except possibly to finance a team in the distant future).
It's just sort of a weird mix of like base taste in being entertained, with voyeurism, and a sort of fear about being Romans watching gladiators die in the arena.

While I didn't quote anyone in particular, I hope that built on or otherwise addressed multiple things that other people have been saying throughout this thread. This is a fascinating issue for me because sports is so important, but the kind of people who like sports (like me) aren't really the kinds of people that write scholarly articles or think very deeply about the subject.

Valka D'Ur

Hosting Iron Pen in A&E
Retired Moderator
Mar 3, 2005
Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
I can't imagine watching people play video games for a living. The closest I ever came was searching out walkthroughs for games I got stuck on.

The one exception was for a different reason: My 2+ years' long writing project is novelizing and expanding the storyline of a computer game called King's Heir: Rise to the Throne (collector's edition). I loved the characters and storyline so much that I wanted more... and the developers didn't provide, so I decided to do it myself.

I lucked out when I found a complete walkthrough on YT for the entire game, and was therefore able to transcribe the complete script. I've played the game itself several times, but the videos provide a way to go back and examine each scene and line of dialogue with a fine-tooth literary comb, to see if there are hidden things in the story that just weren't mentioned.

There were some doozies, a couple of which would have served very well as the basis for a prequel and a sequel game (just when the good characters thought they were all going to live happily ever after, they realize that they hadn't done quite a good enough job getting rid of the villains... oops). So yeah, I've spent many hours on this one specific game. But I can't imagine doing it for most other games.


Archiving Civ3 Content
Mar 17, 2007
It depends on the sport.

American football, I prefer watching. Too much risk of injury playing, especially as I don't have the physical form to stand up to your typical player, even at the amateur level. Similar for ice hockey, and add to that the fact that I am lucky to stay upright on ice skates.

But things like badminton, table tennis, cycling, I'd rather play. Watching the Tour de France sounds boring; biking 30 miles locally sounds fun (although I'll start lighter than that when it warms up here).

Some sports are in between. Anything involving a baseball diamond, I'd probably prefer to play, but might watch a game or two a year. Basketball I'm terrible at, but don't particularly fancy watching either, so it's more or less a wash.

I'd also consider myself someone who both likes sports (albeit not quite to the fanatical level), and likes to think deeply about subjects, if not quite to the point of writing formal, published scholarly articles.


Jun 26, 2014
  1. Most people who have never played the sport have no way to effectively assess what is going on. Yet they are often armchair strategists, saying that this player is good or that this coach is bad. What really astounds me is going on a sports forum and seeing how much people have to say about something, when they are essentially clueless.
I think that's a big part of the fun of being a spectator. At the pro level, it's basically why they're there, so I think anybody complaining about fans flapping their gums is biting the hand that feeds. At the amateur level, it's different. People who get real wound up about kids sports need their heads examined. The college and Olympic level is trickier, but not as tricky as some people make it out to be. To me, if there's money being made, it's a pro sport. So Olympic athletes and NCAA athletes - at least in the big sports, football and basketball - are pro athletes who aren't getting paid.

I've found that I understand the sports I've played better than the ones I haven't. I think baseball must be almost impenetrable to most people. I think soccer is the most intuitive sport I've ever encountered (people who say they don't understand soccer are making themselves out to be very dumb). If I were to pick a "best" sport, by a number of criteria it would probably be soccer.

I haven't played any sports in years, and these days, the only sport I watch much is MMA. I'll also watch the grappling sports at the Olympics. I like rugby, but I completely missed the Six Nations. I followed Major League Baseball for decades, but I've faded on it and have watched very little in the last 10-15 years. I used to follow the European Champions League, but not lately. I'll probably watch more soccer as the World Cups heat up, but I'm not going to know many of the players anymore.

When I watch sports, I actually enjoy being a "neutral" fan more than being invested in the outcome. I like the event, game, match, series or season to tell me its story. I briefly tried betting on sports, and it spoiled my enjoyment of the games, having an artificial stake in the result.
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