If there’s one thing I know about old sportswriters, it’s that they love Bruce Springsteen. HURRRRR WELL DURRRRR ME AND SALLY WE COULDA MADE IT BUT THEN I LOST MY UNION CARD BRRRRGHH.
But if there’s one thing I know about YOUNG sportswriters, it’s that they love to watch The fucking Bachelor. Don’t believe me? Here’s Bill Barnwell at ESPN:
And here’s Katie Nolan over at FOX:
And former Deadspinner and current butthole Greg Howard:
And Mina Kimes at ESPN:
And Clinton Yates at The Undefeated:
And Sarah Spain at ESPN:
As a matter of fact, there’s a fantasy league for the show:
And then there are the people at SBNation, including Charlotte Wilder:
And my friend Matt Ufford:
And then… The Ringer. They cover The Bachelor over at The Ringer because The Ringer wouldn’t be The Ringer without this kind of shit:
I’m gonna go ahead and tell you that I have never watched The Bachelor, but I swear that’s not some bullshit macho posturing from me, where I’m like GRRRRRR I ONLY WATCH MAN STUFF LIKE PORNOS WHERE TWO CHICKS ARE DOIN’ IT GRRRRRR. But holy living fuck, why do so many sportswriters do it? What’s the sporty connection? Isn’t every season the same? Don’t they know it’s all fake and they aren’t REALLY staying together? Shouldn’t they all be watching fancy shit like Mr. Robot instead? IS THIS SHOW NOT PROBLEMATIC?!
Well, since I am a reporter, I decided to use my powers of reportering to get some answers out of these fuckers. Here’s what they had to say:
Kimes: I like it because it’s the only activity in my life where I feel like I can truly let my mind drift for two hours: get all of my Instagram likes in, go through mail, brush my dog’s teeth, etc.
Dave Dameshek, NFL Network: It makes me feel better about me. I’ve never had a particularly winsome way with the ladies. But when I watch, it reminds me there are a lot of even bigger losers out there.
Wilder: I watch The Bachelor because I like to write about The Bachelor. If I didn’t write recaps I wouldn’t watch it; I find it totally maddening, to be honest. It’s such a phony experience in a really creepy way; these people are basically hostages in a house with no phones or connections to the outside world. All they can do is think about this one dude they’re supposed to be falling in love with, so of course they think they’re falling in love with him, even if he’s as interesting as a piece of corrugated cardboard with googly eyes taped to it.
So I write about the show in the hopes that I can continue to remind people what it actually is: a really bizarre thing. Because if we’ve learned anything over the past year and a half, it’s that sometimes buffoons on reality shows can become horrifying presidents of the United States. These shows have reach and they actually do influence people’s perceptions of how the world/love/business works. They matter, as dumb as they may seem as they’re going on. I think it’s important to recognize how powerful these manufactured narratives can be and to make merciless fun of them.
Howard: A girl wanted to watch it together. I think watching it is a pretty cool experience. I watched all of the MTV dating shows and shit growing up. You’re kinda watching the show that gave birth to everything else.
Spain: Rarely do we get to peek inside the intimate act of courting. I find it fascinating to see people try to present their best, most desirable selves—sometimes effectively, often times failing miserably. While The Bachelor world is certainly not authentic to real life — they up the stress with high-octane dates and promote jealousy and insecurity by putting them all in close quarters — it stills boils down to who wants who. Why do people make sense together, what draws them together and how can the little things people say or do along the way affect how they’re perceived by someone they very much want to impress. Yeah, sometimes it’s a little gross (bikini skiing, anyone?) but when you strip away the over-orchestrated dates and (potentially paid) distractions (ahem, Corinne) you’re left with a situation to which we can all relate: looking for love and wanting to be loved.
Ufford: My wife and I barely turn the TV on because we have young kids, and our tastes are on opposite poles (she likes the Housewives and Kardashians; I like things that don’t even start until she goes to bed at 10). But we can watch The Bachelor together: we make jokes about the contestants, talk about the heavy-handed production, and critique everything from the artifice to the outfits. It’s fine. I can miss an episode and it’s fine. My wife can lose interest in the season and we can stop watching altogether. It’s like a little entertainment buffet: satisfactory if we need it, but not so good to be necessary.
Please note that the sportswriter/Bachelor connection also plagues THIS very site. Here’s some our own staff:
Sam Woolley: Because my lord and savior Howard Stern plays clips all the time how all the ladies have severe vocal fry, and I got hooked because it’s amazing how shitty these people all are.
Emma Baccellieri: I am watching The Bachelor for the first time this year and thought I would hate it but am extremely into it.
Hannah Keyser: I like trying to see if I can tell what is bullshit and what is real emotion or at least real attraction. It’s like a sport of social clues. I think a lot of people like the performative stuff, but I think it’s just like how sports fans like to think they’re smarter than the other fans—and they’re seeing something beyond what’s being packaged.
Kate Dries: I started watching because my old roommate did and then I got hooked, doing more research into the world that makes the show then the show itself, which is incredibly repetitive if very base-level entertaining television. I’ve written a lot about it, but the interesting thing for me is to figure out how the producers are manipulating actual lives and downright faking moments for the supposed purpose of good television and try to explain why that matters to people who haven’t gotten in as deep as I have. Of course sports people like it—it’s competitive, features patterns, and is a puzzle you can spend forever trying to solve.
As you can see, the circle of sporting Bachelor fanboys and -girls is only widening. I feel like the show is a bad smell people can’t help but force each other to sniff. “Here, smell this fucking awful show. DO IT DO IT.” I have no doubt that it’s entertaining in the trashiest, most forgettable way possible. Not everyone has the time or energy to binge-watch The Crown instead. But most everyone I talked to who watches this show clearly enjoys treating it as a sport: pro wrestling with champagne flutes instead of folding chairs. There’s even a guy named Reality Steve (clever name) who covers the show like a sport. It will not surprise you to learn that ol’ Steve openly models himself after Bill Simmons.
BUT… Like Hannah says, I think using “it’s like sports” is an easy way to distance yourself from other people who watch the show and take it seriously. Taking a show at anything other than face value allows you to coat yourself in bulletproof irony, making it clear that you watch but don’t necessarily APPROVE of it. And if others join you on Twitter to bash-watch it, well then it’s like a fun little club. “It’s exploitative garbage, but we alone see through it!” (NOTE: Plenty of people I talked to about this noted that I bitch about the NFL but still watch football, which means I am well within the target audience for this show.)
Spain up above clearly relishes the show for the manufactured soap opera that it is, but I bet that in critical moments, most of the irony drains away and all Bachelor viewers are INTO the drama at hand. OMG HOW COULD SHE BLOW HIM IN THE SAFARI SUITE?! They get to indulge in the base allure of the show before going back to looking down on it. You get to have your wedding cake and eat it, too. And I’m quite sure the people in charge of this show know how many people out there are hate-watching. Even more than sports, reality TV has sorted out a way to maximize and sell you schadenfreude. And if SNARKY SPORTS BLOG SNARKERS love anything, it’s schadenfreude.
Our study is now complete. Frankly, I blame Grantland for all this.